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Collection « Les sciences sociales contemporaines »

What a difference ten years can make !
The settlement experience of immigrants admitted to Quebec in 1989. (2002)

Une édition électronique réalisée à partir du Jean RENAUD, Lucie Gingras, Sébastien Vachon, Christine Blaser, Jean-François Godin et Benoît Gagné (2003), What a difference ten years can make ! The settlement experience of immigrants admitted to Quebec in 1989, Les Publications du Québec, 185p. Collection: “Studies, Research Projects and Statistics”. [Le 29 janvier 2014, Monsieur Jean Renaud nous autorisait la diffusion de toutes ses publications et travaux en libre accès à tous dans Les Classiques des sciences sociales.]



What a difference ten years can make ! marks the culmination of the Settlement of New Immigrants (SNI) Survey started 12 years ago. It is a longitudinal study that followed, with interviews, a cohort of adult immigrants admitted in 1989. A total of 1,000 participants collaborated in the first interview held in 1990, while 729 took part in the second in 1991 and 508 in the third in 1992. A total of 429 respondents who participated in the first interview also took part in the last in 1999.

Housing : greater access to home ownership
and geographical dispersion

Ten years after settling in Quebec, over 36% of respondents were home owners.

No difference was observed by gender, age or immigration class. Only education level seems to influence the speed of access to home ownership, which increases along with level of education.

In terms of mobility, dispersal movements are observed from the third year of settlement to the 10th year. This dispersal was not limited to the Island of Montreal, but also occurred in Montérégie, Laval and the Lower Laurentians.

Employment :
increased stability and socio-economic status

Respondents found their first job quite quickly. After 15 weeks, over 50% of them had landed their first job. Furthermore, after 10 years, fewer than 14% had never worked.

Job stability was observed to start mainly in the third year of settlement, with roughly the fourth job. Job duration increased significantly and the vast majority of respondents had held at least one job by that time.

Increased job stability was more observable in more educated respondents.

The median weekly salary of the set of employed respondents increased during the 10 first years (from $300 at Round 1 to $500 at Round 4. However, the numbers of hours worked per week remained stable (39.1 hours/week).

The proportion of salaried jobs tended to decrease over time in favour of self-employment.

In general, employed respondents worked mainly in three major industries during the first 10 years of settlement : manufacturing (29%), retailing (17%), and accommodation and food services (10%). A significant reduction in employment in manufacturing industries was observed over time (dropping from 32% in 1990 to 26% in 1999). This decrease was due essentially to a reduction in the number of workers in the apparel industry.

Employed respondents worked mainly in small companies. For the entire duration of the study, the proportion of employed respondents working in small companies was 47%. It was 40% for those working in companies with 11 to 100 employees, and 13% for those in companies employing more than 100 workers.

The rate of unionization also remained quite stable over time, fluctuating around 15%.

During the entire period covered by the study, men had higher probabilities of holding a job than women. Furthermore, the weekly median wages of men were consistently higher than those of women. This was also the case for respondents aged 26 and over, and those who hold a post-secondary diploma and higher.

Respondents admitted under the "independent" class had a higher probability of having a job during the 10-year period than respondents in the "family" or "refugee" classes.


The average socio-economic status of the jobs held improved slightly over the 10 observation years. Respondents admitted in the "independent" class, as well as older or better-educated respondents had, on average, jobs with higher socio-economic status than the other respondents throughout the period.

Respondents holding a job are more likely over time to hold a skilled job. Over the years, the proportion of respondents stating that their job required "superior" qualifications rose from 22% at Round 1 to 41% at Round 4.

Education :
an important investment from the beginning

Investment in education is important. The vast majority of the respondents' educational activity took place in the first years of settlement. After one year, 53% had taken a course of some sort. After 10 years, the proportion was 70%.

Young respondents (18-25 years old) enrolled more quickly in training. After 10 years of observation, nearly 82% of the 18-25 age group had taken training compared to 75% for to 26-40 age group and 53% for those aged 41 and over.

Respondents with primary education waited significantly longer to take training than respondents with higher levels of education. After 10 years of settlement, nearly 43% of them had never taken training compared to 27% among those with secondary, post-secondary and university education.

Respondents admitted under the "refugee" class had the highest percentage of enrolments in courses (both part- and full-time) over 10 years of observation. Respondents in the "family" class are proportionately less numerous.

The proportion of respondents taking full-time courses, after rapid growth in the first six months of settlement (22% at week 22), decreased throughout subsequent years to the extent that, after 10 years, only 4% of respondents were taking full-time courses.

The proportion of respondents taking part-time courses was 16% at Week 20. The proportion subsequently declined until the fourth year to finally stabilize at around 3%.

COFI courses were relatively important for respondents at the beginning of their settlement process, but decreased rapidly after that (full-and part-time), More than three respondents in five who took full-time training in their first year took COFI courses. They represent under 5% of full-time courses in the second year.

Households :
a reconstitution that tends to nuclear families

The size of households diminished over time. In the first year, 40% of households were composed of five or more individuals. At the end of the tenth year, this proportion dropped to 30%.

The proportion of respondents living alone increased over time. Similarly, there was a strong increase in four-person households.

The proportion of nuclear families (respondent, spouse and child/children) grew substantially over time, while the proportion of extended families dropped considerably.

There was also an increase in single-parent families from 2% in the first year to 6% in the last.

In most households, respondents had no children (under age 18). However, there was a decline over the years in childless households. At 61% on arrival, the percentage drops to 50% at the end of the last year of observation. The strongest increase in births over time occurs in the 18-25 age group (on arrival).

Language :
increased use of French at home and in public

The use of French in public predominated among respondents. Almost 61% of them declared that they use only French outside the home. Nearly 8% said they use it as much as English and nearly 6% use it as much as another language. Fewer than 20% used only English. This breakdown remains almost exactly the same for those whose mother tongue is neither French nor English. However, it changes based on education level, with university and primary level respondents using French less outside the home than respondents with post-secondary education.

Mother tongue was the language most often spoken at home. However, at the end of the 10-year period, there was a notable drop in its use in favour of French (a little fewer than half used their mother tongue).


At the last observation round, just over 48% of respondents whose mother tongue was neither French nor English said they never spoke French at home. However, the use of French at home increased over time. Among those whose mother tongue was neither French nor English, the proportion doubles from the first to the last observation round.

More respondents with secondary and post-secondary education (on arrival) whose mother tongue was neither French nor English spoke French 75% of the time at home than those with primary and university education.

The proportion of respondents who never spoke English at home was higher, representing 81% of respondents at the last interview. Furthermore, only 4% speak it more than 75% of the time.

Respondents found a first job more quickly in French than in English. An estimated 25% of respondents found work in French after 13 weeks. The time needed to find a job in English rose to 90 weeks for the first quartile. If the trends of the past 10 years continue, it is estimated that 63% of the respondents will work in French in the long term and 32% in English.

The perception of Quebec as a predominantly French society still dominated other perceptions after 10 years. Although French use actually increased at home and in public, perceptions paradoxically did not develop in the same direction. 57% of respondents in 1999 considered Quebec a "predominantly francophone" society, whereas in 1990, 71% expressed this impression. In contrast, nearly 21% of respondents in 1999 perceived Quebec as a "multilingual" society, compared to 4% in 1990.

Citizenship application and sponsorship commitment

After 10 years settlement in the country, over 95% of respondents had applied for Canadian citizenship. Fewer respondents aged 18 to 25 (on arrival) applied for citizenship than other respondents. A higher proportion of those who failed to apply for citizenship are found among the least educated.

Half of them acquired citizenship after four years and a little more than 75% obtained it in four and a half years. Also after 10 years, nearly 11% of all respondents had not yet acquired Canadian citizenship.

Financial aid provided by the sponsor became less frequent over time. From 73% at Round 1, it fell to 39% at the final survey.

More than 18% of respondents had applied to sponsor one or more family members. A higher proportion of respondents admitted under the "refugee" class, compared to those in the "family" or "independent" class, took steps to sponsor a family member.

Civic life : the more educated participate more

Nearly 85% of respondents voted in the last provincial election in 1998. In the 1995 referendum, 87% cast a vote. Note that 7% voted in the 1989 provincial election.

Level of education worked in favour of civic participation among respondents. Participation was greater among those more informed about the electoral process and association life (participation in organisations or associations). We also noted that the better-educated respondents were more involved in associations composed mainly of native-born Quebeckers and Canadians.

Three respondents in four with school-age children said they participated in parents' meetings at school. Nearly 10% are or were members of the institutional council or school committee.

Moral contract :
unequivocal support for prohibiting discrimination

Nearly 90% of respondents agreed somewhat or completely with the fact the Quebec and Canadian governments prohibit all forms of discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, religion and political opinion. Only sexual orientation did not get such unanimous support.

The opinions of respondents concerning the marriage of their children bear witness to a certain openness of mind. Only 7% would disagree with the marriage of one of their children to someone with different political opinions. This proportion increases to 17% when ethnicity is involved and 25% in the case of religion.


Finally, respondents' perceptions of discrimination in both employment and in housing diminished significantly over time.

Social networks in Quebec :
the importance of neighbours as a source of support
and the multicultural nature of networks

The type of social network most frequently encountered among respondents (determined by the number of contacts) is that of neighbours who provided strong support. 32% of respondents had frequent contacts with neighbours on whom they could count for help and moral support. For more than 23% of respondents, contacts with acquaintances were more frequent. Finally, fewer than 20% of respondents had more frequent contacts with neighbours who provided less support. It is important to note that only 15% had more frequent contacts with their family network.

In terms of size, however, the family network is the largest with an average of 9.7 persons.

More than 70% of respondents obtain strong social support (counting all networks). No significant difference is noticed by gender, age and education level. Only the immigrant class shows differences : "independent" refugees benefit more from strong social support than respondents in the "family" and "refugee" classes.

Having children made a significant difference in the types of dominant social networks. Respondents with children had more contacts with neighbours (strong or weak support). Conversely, respondents without children had more frequent contacts with acquaintances (37% versus 17% among respondents with children). Respondents who lived alone had more frequent contacts with acquaintances (42%) and neighbours who offer weak support than those respondents who lived with others (respectively 21 % and 19%).

An examination of the ethnic composition of networks (by five types of networks : of Quebec and Canadian background, of Quebec background, of Canadian background, of same ethnic background as respondents, of other ethnic background), reveals that there is no significant difference in the distribution of networks according to ethnic composition.

A review of linguistic composition of networks (by five types of networks : speak French, English and another language, speak French only, speak English only, speak French and English, speak another language) reveals that there is no significant difference in the distribution of networks according to linguistic composition.

The choice of information sources varied according to the subject in question. Respondents mainly use public services and media more than other means to search for a job. Health information is also sought from public organisations. In contrast, to find lodging, respondents turn more to the media, relatives and friends.

Bonds outside Quebec :
keeping family ties

The proportion of respondents with relatives in Quebec tended to increase over time. From 54% in 1990, today 60% have family in the province. Nearly 22% have family in another Canadian province.

Since their arrival in Quebec, nearly three respondents in four (72%) have visited their country of origin at least once, mostly (84%) to see relatives or friends. Nearly 96% of respondents said they had family in their country of origin.

More than 93% of respondents said they retained ties with their country of origin, whether they be family (57%), friends (52%), business (6%) or professional (2%). And 16% declared that they owned a house in their country of origin, 1 1% owned a property and 2% a store or company.

Perception of settlement :
a positive experience

Since arriving in Quebec, the vast majority of immigrants interviewed (99.3%) have never applied to emigrate to another country. Nor do they want to return to their country of origin. Most of them wish to stay here. However, there was a slight increase in the number of respondents expressing the desire to return someday to their country of origin, rising from 19% at Round 1 to 23% at Round 4.


At their last interview, four out of five respondents considered that their personal situation had improved since their settlement. This share was three respondents in five at the second and third interviews.

The great majority of respondents (83%) would encourage a co-national to immigrate to the country. However, respondents with the most education are less likely to encourage such a gesture than the less educated.


Retour au texte de l'auteur: Jean-Marc Fontan, sociologue, UQAM Dernière mise à jour de cette page le vendredi 31 juillet 2020 13:08
Par Jean-Marie Tremblay, sociologue
professeur associé, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi.

Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec
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