Prior to the December 2012 reforms to the in-Canada refugee determination system, it was possible for some refugee claimants to reside in Canada for several years before the final adjudication of their claim. Their labour market activities, their receipt of publicly funded benefits, and their well-being during that period are relevant to public policy. Nonetheless, very little information on the economic characteristics of refugee claimants has been available to date.
This report begins to address this data gap. The Refugee Claimant Continuum Database from Citizenship and Immigration Canada and administrative tax files were combined into a new linked dataset capable of supporting research on refugee claimants. The focus in this report is on the receipt of social assistance (SA) among refugee claimants who initiated their claim between 1999 and 2011.
Among refugee claimants of all ages, 74% to 78% were linked to administrative tax data over the period from 2002 to 2011; linkage rates were somewhat lower between 1999 and 2001, at 67% to 71%. Alternative measures of SA receipt were estimated to assess the impact of unlinked cases.
In the year following the start of their refugee claim (i.e., in year t+1), the estimated rate of SA receipt varied somewhat depending on the treatment of unlinked cases. The lower-bound estimate, which assumed that all unlinked cases did not receive SA was about 65%. The upper-bound estimate assumed that all unlinked cases received SA, and was about 85%. The middle estimate, which simply excluded all unlinked cases, was close to the upper-bound estimate (about 80%).
Focusing on the middle estimate, the receipt of SA in year t+1 among the 2005-to-2010 claimant cohorts generally ranged between 80% and 90% across family types, with rates highest among lone mothers and couples with more than two children. Similarly, the incidence of SA receipt generally ranged from about 80% to 90% across families in which the oldest member was between 19 to 24 and 55 to 64 years of age. Across provinces, the incidence of SA receipt in year t+1 was generally highest in Quebec, at over 85%, and lowest in Alberta, at under 60%.
SA receipt varied considerably across country of citizenship. Refugee claimants from countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and Somalia all had relatively high SA rates (close to or above 90%) throughout most of the study period, while rates were lower among refugee claimants from Bangladesh, Haiti, India, and Jamaica (generally below 80%).
The rates of SA receipt tended to decline sharply in the years following the start of the refugee claim. Between years t+1 and t+2, rates fell by about 20 percentage points among most claimant cohorts, declining a further 15 percentage points between t+2 and t+3, and 10 percentage points between t+3 and t+4. By t+4, between 25% and 40% of refugee claimants received SA. However, it is important to recall that these figures pertain to the diminishing group of refugee claimants whose claims remained open up to that year. These figures are also well above the Canadian average of about 8%.
Among refugee claimant families that received SA in year t+1, the average total family income typically ranged from about $19,000 to $22,000, with SA benefits accounting for $8,000 to $11,000—or about 40% to 48%—of that total.
In aggregate terms, SA income paid to all recipients in Canada totaled $10 billion to $13 billion in most years. Given their relatively small size as a group, the dollar amount of SA paid to refugee claimant families amounted to between 1.9% and 4.4% of that total, depending on the year and on the treatment of unlinked cases.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Social Assistance Receipt Among Refugee Claimants in Canada: Evidence from Linked Administrative Data Files and Social Assistance Receipt Among Refugee Claimants in Canada