Strategies for Developing Immigrant Worker Co-ops

Immigrant Worker Co-op Strategies paper drafted by Hazel Corcoran of the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation.


I. Background

Through the current Co-operative Development Initiative (CDI) Innovation and Research (I & R) Project, the Canadian Worker Co-operative Federation (CWCF), in consultation with its Diversity Committee, is prioritizing worker co-op development in immigrant communities, including approaches and resources to improve their success rates. The reason for this priority is because the need among immigrant communities for economic and socio-economic improvement is great, and the potential of worker ownership to meet these needs as well as to help empower the worker-owners is also significant.

In terms of need, income disparity between native-born Canadians and immigrants to Canada is large, and on the increase. The 2006 Census data released on May 2, 2008 revealed that earnings for recent immigrants (about 80% of whom are racialized) show a grim economic reality. According to a Globe and Mail story, in 1980 the median earnings for immigrants and Canadians with a university degree were $48,541 and $63,040, respectively. In 2005, immigrant men with a university degree earned $30,332, while their Canadian-born counterparts had a median income of 62,556. In 2005, Canadian-born men without a university degree had a median income of $40,235.

The Census reveals that the economic situation for immigrants has been steadily declining. The same analysis states: “During this 25-year period, recent immigrants lost ground relative to their Canadian-born counterparts. In 1980, recent immigrant men who had some employment income earned 85 cents for each dollar received by Canadian-born men. By 2005, the ratio had dropped to 63 cents. The corresponding numbers for recent immigrant women were 85 cents and 56 cents, respectively. Earnings disparities between recent immigrants and Canadian-born workers increased not only during the two previous decades, but also between 2000 and 2005.”

This worsening trend has been observed by the co-operative community as well. The Multicultural Health Brokers Co-op (MCHB) expanded on the 2001 census research and concluded that the statistical evidence demonstrates a new pattern of what is essentially non-settlement of newcomers in Canada. In other words, newcomers are not settling as they used to. Traditionally, most immigrants have a transitional period of low income but then over time outperform the Canadian born, however there is growing evidence that more recent groups of arrivals have not fared as well as past groups.

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Strategies Immigrant WC Dev’t Fnl – w bib