Project Researchers

Project Description

This project asked how well the Vietnamese population welcomed to Canada between 1979-1981, colloquially labeled “the Boat People,” are doing today with respect to educational attainment and labour market integration (measured in terms of occupation and earnings). This group of refugees were examined in relation to those born in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and in other North and Western European countries who arrived during the same period. Earlier research found that the Indochinese refugees came from poor and war-torn countries and had low levels of education, little English/French language skills, and worked in occupations that did not match those found in Canada’s industrial and service sectors. Given these findings, three core questions guided the study:

  1. What educational resources do these groups have?
  2. What are the occupational and earnings profiles today?
  3. Using multivariate statistical techniques, what underlies labour market inequalities between the Vietnamese and other groups? Specifically, do differences among groups in demographic characteristics (such as age, language characteristics, place of residence) and in education explain subsequent economic differences in occupational measures and in earnings?

These questions were answered with information from the 2011 National Household Survey and the 2016 Census of Population.

Project Findings

This study revealed three main findings. Firstly, economic outcomes for refugees vary by the period of arrival and by the country of origin. Secondly, education is an important explanation for the labour force experiences of refugees and other non-refugee groups. Differences between groups that immigrated during 1979-1990 in occupational status, the percentage holding high skilled occupations and 2015 earnings largely reflect educational differences between groups. “Re-skilling” through additional education and strategies for keeping children of immigrants in school longer may be helpful for improving future economic outcomes. Finally, refugee accommodation is a long-term on-going process. Some 30-35 years later, the Vietnamese boat people still bear the imprint of their exodus and the levels of educational resources they had when they left Vietnam. These findings offer a backdrop and projection of what might be the experiences of recently arrived vulnerable youth, such as those from war torn Syria and other countries.