By Ghina Dajani, CAI Research Fellow
Published: October 2014
The fifth in a series analyzing the 2011 census data released by Statistics Canada, this report shows the income distribution among Canadian Arabs.[i]
A Low Income Community
Income distribution within the Canadian Arab community peaks in the “Under $5,000” range, with 15% of the Canadian Arab community falling within this income bracket in comparison to 9% of the Canadian population. Generally, the Canadian Arab community has higher rates within the lower income brackets, and lower rates within the higher income brackets, when compared to the Canadian average. This indicates that Canadian Arabs generally receive lower incomes than their Canadian counterparts, despite their higher rates of qualification and education.
This is further reflected in the fact that more Canadian Arabs aged 15 and over reported no income in 2010, 9%, than did Canadians, 5%. This again is a reflection of higher underemployment among Canadian Arabs in comparison to the general Canadian population.
Income distribution in the Canadian Arab community across selected provinces
On average, income in the Canadian Arab community for the year 2010 was significantly lower than the Canadian average – coming in at $32,653 per annum in comparison with the national average income of $40,650 per annum – with the exception of the Egyptian community which outperformed its counterparts, averaging an annual income of $43,521. The Somali community averaged the lowest annual income, with as little as $24,182 a year, and the Iraqi community performed only slightly better with an average annual income of $27,212.
For the most part, the majority of the Canadian Arab community averages its highest annual incomes in Alberta than in any other province, with the exception of the Lebanese, Iraqi, and Moroccan communities who perform better in British Columbia, Quebec, and Ontario, respectively. While the provincial average annual income in Alberta remains higher than that of the Canadian Arab community, at $50,956 per annum in comparison with $40,641, the Algerian community in Alberta outperforms both groups with an average annual income of $57,180. As with other provinces, the Iraqi and Somali communities average the lowest annual incomes at $27,979 and $26,673, respectively.
A closer look at one of the provinces most densely populated by Canadian Arabs reveals that the discrepancy between the average income of Canadian Arabs and the general Canadian population is much the same in Ontario as it is on the national scale, with Canadian Arabs averaging an annual income of $36,353 in comparison with the provincial average income of $42,264. The Moroccan community in Ontario only slightly outperforms the Egyptian community, coming in at an average annual income $45,507 and $45,451 respectively. The Iraqi and Somali communities fall into the lowest income groups, averaging annual incomes of $26,007 and $22, 948 respectively.
Canadian Arabs in British Columbia averaged an annual income of $31,639, an average higher than that of Quebec, but lower than that of Ontario or Alberta. It is here however that the Lebanese community makes its highest average annual income, at $42,784, and the Syrian community makes its lowest average annual income, at $33,330. Otherwise, the distribution of income across the different ethnicities of Canadian Arabs remains mostly similar to the national distribution as well as other provinces, with Egypt in the lead with an average annual income of $43,258, and Iraq and Somalia coming in with the lowest average annual incomes of $25,423 and $20,933, respectively.
With the largest Canadian Arab population, average annual incomes in Quebec are slightly lower than they are in the second-largest Canadian Arab community in Ontario, with the Canadian Arab average annual income at $31,529 and a provincial average income at $36,352. Income averages throughout the Canadian Arab community are generally lowest in Quebec than they are in any other province, with the exception of the Iraqi and Somali communities whose average incomes are highest in Quebec – at $33,939 and $26,673.
Significantly, the Moroccan and Algerian communities suffer the greatest difference in average annual income in Quebec versus Ontario, with a reduction of $14,997 and $12,083 per annum respectively. This is of particular interest as the Moroccan and Algerian communities are the second and third largest Arab communities in Quebec (following the Lebanese community), and are more highly concentrated in Quebec than in any other province in Canada.
Gender and Income in the Canadian Arab Community
The 2011 National Household Survey data shows that the Canadian national average income differs greatly between males and females, with Canadian men making an average $15,594 more per annum than their female counterparts. The same trend holds within the Canadian Arab community. Men in the Canadian Arab community make an average $11,366 more per annum than do Canadian Arab women. The income gap is greatest within the Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian communities – which incidentally, are the four communities with the highest national average annual incomes – and smallest within the Algerian and Somali communities. This indicates that within the Canadian Arab population, communities with higher annual incomes rely less on income generated by women than the income generated by their men, producing a larger income gap between the two.
[i] All data tables extracted from Statistics Canada, 2011 Census, and 2011 National Household Survey.
[ii] All ethnicities in this study are self-identified by individuals who participated in the 2011 National Household Survey.
[iii] Total income - Total income refers to monetary receipts from certain sources, before income taxes and deductions, during the calendar year 2010. It includes employment income from wages, salaries, tips, commissions and net income from self-employment (for both unincorporated farm and non-farm activities); income from government sources, such as social assistance, child benefits, employment insurance, old age security pension, Canada or Quebec pension plan benefits and disability income; income from employer and personal pension sources, such as private pensions and payments from annuities and RRIFs; income from investment sources, such as dividends and interest on bonds, accounts, GICs and mutual funds; and other regular cash income, such as child support payments received, spousal support payments (alimony) received and scholarships. The monetary receipts included are those that tend to be of a regular and recurring nature. It excludes one-time receipts, such as lottery winnings, gambling winnings, cash inheritances, lump sum insurance settlements, capital gains and RRSP withdrawals. Capital gains are excluded because they are not by their nature regular and recurring. It is further assumed that they are less likely to be fully spent in the period in which they are received, unlike income that is regular and recurring. Also excluded are employer's contributions to registered pension plans, Canada and Quebec pension plans, and employment insurance. Finally, voluntary inter-household transfers, imputed rent, goods and services produced for barter, and goods produced for own consumption are excluded from this total income definition.