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2023 Settlement Outcomes Report

Executive Summary

"Following the first Settlement Outcomes Highlights Report published in 2021, this report represents the second publication by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that provides a high-level analysis and summary of the newcomer settlement experience for clients of IRCC’s Settlement Program. The first report served as a baseline document on newcomer settlement outcomes against which comparisons could be made in future years. This second report marks the beginning of the comparative analyses that will provide opportunities to assess changes, improvements, and the overall effectiveness of IRCC’s Settlement Program.

While the ability to compare newcomer outcomes across publications is a noteworthy feature of this report, it is also important to acknowledge the challenging period that it covers. This report was developed using data collected during COVID-19.

There is a growing body of research that examines how Canada fared across multiple factors. For example, in the early months of the pandemic (February to April 2020), there was a 15% decline in employment, as well as a 32% decline in the number of hours worked per week by those aged 20-64. As a result, the pandemic created serious financial pressures for businesses and households alike. These challenges were also felt by those planning to immigrate to Canada as the risks associated with COVID-19 resulted in federal restrictions on entry and travel. This created disruptions across the immigration system as the number of immigrants arriving in Canada fell by almost half the amount in 2020 compared to 2019, and Canada’s population growth was massively reduced.

In response to the growing demand for immigration, and the unexpected challenges associated with the pandemic, IRCC introduced transitionary measures to facilitate pathways for temporary migrants to become permanent residents of Canada. By 2021, these measures resulted in Canada welcoming the most immigrants in a single year in its history, with 405,999 permanent residents. The following year, Canada welcomed 437,180 immigrants to support population and economic growth. The contributions of newcomers have been key for supporting post-pandemic recovery.

However, newcomers living in Canada were adversely affected by the pandemic in distinct ways. For example, in the early months of the pandemic, recent immigrants were more likely than Canadian-born workers to transition out of employment due largely to their over-representation in lower-wage jobs and their shorter job tenure. Similarly, immigrants were also disproportionately represented in sectors with more exposure to COVID-19 (e.g. front-line work, essential services, long-term care). In addition to these significant financial and health impacts, physical distancing measures made it difficult for newcomers to access the supports they needed. To address these challenges, the 550 service provider organizations (SPOs) across Canada that deliver IRCC’s Settlement Program adapted to the evolving needs of newcomers, and to the constraints on in-person delivery of services. They introduced rapid, innovative practices and successful program delivery transformations to respond to the pandemic-related challenges. For example, by Fall of 2020, 97% of domestic direct service providers were offering at least some settlement services online whereas previously most services were offered in-person. These program changes, and the pandemic impacts on newcomers are examined in greater detail throughout the report.

The contents of this Settlement Outcomes Report, reflect the extraordinary changes and challenges that newcomers, and settlement service providers, have faced over the past few years. It represents the innovations and progress that have been achieved across IRCC settlement programming and by IRCC-funded service provider organizations.

The report is divided into three parts that can be read as a whole or as stand-alone parts on each priority topic:

Part 1: Newcomer outcomes stock take

This part of the report revisits the baseline Settlement Outcomes Highlight Report published in 2021 to assess changes in newcomer outcomes and provide updates on core programming. Key findings include:

  • The Settlement Program and SPOs that deliver programming were able to successfully adjust to the pandemic and related restrictions.
  • While COVID had significant impacts on new admissions and Settlement Program client volumes, the numbers are rebounding. Newcomer women were particularly hard-hit by impacts to the Canadian labour market.
  • Overall patterns in service usage and the demographic characteristics of clients accessing services remained similar to before the pandemic, indicating that newcomers continued to have timely access to the services required to meet their distinct needs.
  • There are gaps in awareness of IRCC-funded settlement services, with an overall awareness rate of 68% among all newcomers.
  • The majority of newcomers directly participate in the Canadian labour market; many of those not working contributed in other ways, including caring for a child, being a student, or being a homemakers.
  • For most outcomes, clients reported slightly higher rates of improvement in knowledge and abilities than their non-client counterparts.

Part 2: Digital transformation

This part of the report assesses the impacts and lessons learned from the shift to online and hybrid service provision of IRCC’s Settlement Program. Key findings include:

  • While most newcomers will be able to access online services (primarily through a mobile phone), some newcomers face barriers. Clients from one or more of the following categories are more likely to experience barriers: resettled refugees, seniors, and clients with lower education levels.
  • Digital skills supports can benefit newcomers who face barriers to accessing remote settlement services. The sector is exploring different ways to deliver these supports.
  • Newcomers prefer to access information about life in Canada online more than any other format. Online appears to be an effective way to deliver Information and Orientation to most clients, compared to other formats.
  • Online Employment-related Services also had promising results from a service delivery and effectiveness perspective; however newcomers still prefer to access some interpersonal aspects in-person (e.g. employer networking).
  • Online services have the potential for future savings (e.g. in real estate, program efficiencies), but carry significant upfront costs in software, hardware, IT infrastructure, and personnel.

Part 3: Place-based programming in regional immigration

This part of the report examines the place-based approach to settlement in IRCC’s regional immigration pilots including the Atlantic Immigration Program and the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot. This is not an evaluation or assessment of the pilots, but rather a deeper exploration into the settlement implications. Key findings include:

  • RNIP and AIP both demonstrated early positive results in retention of newcomers in destinations that have typically struggled to attract and retain immigrants. Further research is needed to explain these findings, including examining longer-term retention.
  • While uptake of IRCC-funded settlement services was comparable to newcomers from other economic pathways, employers played an important role in the regional pilots by providing supports (e.g. housing and transportation supports) that complemented traditional service provider offerings (e.g. language and community connections).
  • Settlement clients in the Atlantic region reported better knowledge outcomes than non-clients; however, AIP clients did not have better knowledge outcomes than Atlantic clients from other economic pathways.
  • Newcomers in these destinations have reported similar forms of discrimination as other newcomers across Canada (e.g. discrimination based on race, language, country of origin).
  • RNIP and AIP newcomers report a strong sense of belonging to their local community. Those who accessed settlement services or community-level supports report stronger sense of belonging.
  • Future research is needed, including a formal evaluation of the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot to explore areas outside of the scope of this report, including immigration selection, pilot administration, resource intensity and program integrity.

While each part of the report focuses on a priority area, together they tell a story about how newcomers, service providers, and IRCC have been impacted by and responded to a tremendous amount of change over the past few years."

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