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Quebec English-speakers have higher unemployment, lower income than French-speakers: study

Whatever your image of Quebec English-speakers — rich Westmount-dwellers, perhaps — odds are that it dates back a few decades.

A new report has created an updated portrait, and it’s starkly different than what many expect, showing that English-speakers are struggling financially compared to their French-speaking counterparts.

“What we found was that English speakers have a two percent higher unemployment rate than francophones and that they have about $2,800 less in median income,” said Nick Salter of the provincially funded think-tank PERT, which wrote the report.

More specifically, English-speakers have an average unemployment rate of 8.9 per cent in Quebec, while French-speakers have a rate of 6.9 per cent.

That gap widens much further in some regions, such as in Côte-Nord, where more than a quarter of English-speakers — 25.5 per cent — are unemployed.

English-speakers’ unemployment rates are lower than French-speakers in only two administrative regions: Bas-Saint-Laurent and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, both of which only have a very small English-speaking population of between 1,000 and 2,000.

And English-speakers’ income is lower in all but three administrative regions: Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, Mauricie, and Chaudière-Appalaches.

In four other regions, meanwhile, including the Eastern Townships, English-speakers earn $4,000 less, on average, than French-speakers.

The data in the study came from the 2016 national census and from the provincial statistical institute.

PERT is an organization focused on English-speakers’ labor participation, and this study was funded by the secretariat of English-speaking Quebecers’ relations, or SRQEA.

“Once considered to be a homogeneous elite, Québec’s English-speaking community has undergone considerable changes over the past four decades,” the report’s writers concluded.

In 2022, Quebec English-speakers are not only a varied “group of communities” by past standards but by national standards. “They are the most ethno-culturally diverse official language minority community in Canada,” the report found.

“One quarter of Québec’s English-speaking population belongs to a visible minority, the majority of whom are Black or South Asian.”

As a whole, English-speakers are also contending with a lot of demographic change, including an aging population at the same time as “high levels of youth unemployment.”

PERT’s researchers found overall that English-speaking Quebecers are feeling especially punished by Bill 96, the language bill on the verge of passing into law, because it comes at a time when many are already lagging in the work world or in income.

ANGLO YOUTH HAVE ESPECIALLY HIGH UNEMPLOYMENT

English-speakers make up a sizeable minority within Quebec, representing 13.8 per cent of Québec’s population and 14.3 per cent of the labor force. About half of them live in Montreal.

Between the two linguistic groups, the differences look even starker when you take age into account.

English-speakers are younger on average than French-speakers. For French-speakers, the biggest age group is 45- to 64-year-olds.Among English-speakers, the biggest group is younger — ages 25 to 44.

However, it’s that younger group that makes up the biggest share of the labor force in both linguistic groups.

For youth under 25, English-speakers have an unemployment rate of 16.3 per cent while their French-speaking counterparts have a rate of 11.9 per cent.

While both linguistic groups tend to work in the same major industries, there are slight differences in emphasis, with health care and social assistance jobs being the most common among Quebecers as a whole, but retail being the leading employer of English-speakers.

On the other hand, English-speakers tend to struggle to adjust and to have a harder time in regions where manufacturing and “resource-oriented” industries are the best local employers, the report found.

These regions “tend to have lower labor force participation from English speakers,” it said.

GREATEST SUPPORT FOR BILL 96 IN THE REGIONS

Some influential French-speakers have argued publicly against the bill in recent days, notably Yves Boisvert in a La Presse column this weekend, writing that “there are parts of this bill that will not help protect the French language but will only annoy the English community .”

Surveys show that two-thirds of French-speakers support the bill, but that support is concentrated in specific groups: people over 55 and in the regions rather than the metropolitan areas.

“They’re worrying that the place of French in Montreal is decreasing for a myriad of reasons—but they don’t even live in Montreal,” said Christian Bourque of the pollster Leger Marketing.

“But we’ve seen that in Quebec before,” he said. “It’s the same with immigration: the further you are from people who are recent immigrants, the more you believe immigration is a threat.”

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