Working in self-employment: the case of Chinese men in Canada

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University of New Brunswick


Using the 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006 Census of Canada Confidential Masterfiles, this study explores two questions: 1) Are male Chinese-born immigrants more likely to be in self-employment relative to native-born Canadians? 2) Do male self-employed Chinese immigrants earn more than native-born in the Canadian labour market? According to the results, male Chinese immigrants had a higher self-employment rate than native-born from 1991 to 2006, but they earned on average a lower total earned income. Some sociodemographic characteristics such as age, age at immigration, education level, region of residence, period of landing, English proficiency, children in the family, and marital status are important to explain the propensity to be in self-employment. Furthermore, recent immigrants (who landed from 1991 to 2006) are more likely to be self-employed compared to immigrants who have resided in Canada for longer. In terms of earnings of self-employed workers, after correcting for self-selection into self-employment, the results reveal that Chinese immigrants earn lower total earned income than otherwise comparable native-born. As well, older age, younger age at immigration, longer period since landing in Canada, proficiency in English, more children at home, and being in a marriage resulted in a higher total earned income, as did being university educated and being resident in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C. The results of the analysis will provide some guidance as to reasons why experiences of self-employment differ between immigrants and non-immigrants and so yield further insights into the transitions immigrants experience when entering the Canadian labour market.