Do prospective migrants turn to social media to find employment opportunities prior to their arrival in Canada? If they do, are they more or less successful in their search?

We surveyed 500 recent immigrants to Canada, asking how social media helped them learn about work prospects prior to their arrival. We then tracked their employment progress over the following year.

A large number of immigrants used social media to find employment information before arriving. Yet, at the same time, the Settlement Service Provider Organizations (SSPOs) that help newcomers find employment are new to communicating on social media. Can they build social media capacity to better support new immigrants?

The Social Media Information Gap

Many new immigrants face various challenges settling into a new country. Before coming to Canada, a significant number of prospective immigrants spend time searching through social media for information. They turn to some platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, more than others. The preferred platform tends to differ according to factors like their gender or the type of information they are searching for.

In our study of 500 recent immigrants to Canada, we found encouraging results about how social media was used in job searches. But at the same time, we learned that only about 26% of SSPOs use social media extensively. To understand the potential to close this gap, we examined patterns in usage and the labour market outcomes for recent immigrants at three distinct stages: pre-arrival, information gathering, and post-arrival. Our analysis follows.

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Pre-Arrival Search and Communication

A high percentage of incoming immigrants search for information about work prospects before coming to Canada. As many as 65% (n=263) of pre-arrival newcomers surveyed are social media users, while 82% (n=288) connected with a person or group regarding immigration before coming to Canada. Facebook, for example, is almost as important as making a direct email or phone call, and more frequently used than instant messaging services. Other important social media information resources include LinkedIn, QZone, and online discussion forums.

If we examine this data along gendered lines, an important difference appears. Men prefer email or telephone-based communication.

For women, Facebook is more popular than making direct phone calls or emails.

Best Platforms for Information Search

While new immigrants are combing the social media environment for information and services, they primarily rely on a few key methods and platforms to find labour market information. For example, when searching for occupational licensing requirements, they typically rely on email or telephone contact with people in their network. When seeking job interview advice or salary information, they turn to LinkedIn more than any other platform.

Use the interactive buttons below to see which resources immigrants use to seek various different types of information.

Wide Range of Experience

When surveying new immigrants, we also asked what their settlement experience was like. Did they find all of the information they were looking for? What other experiences did they encounter when trying to access labour market information? A significant number of respondents (n=166) experienced misinformation or reported that they didn't have the knowledge or training when using social media to learn about the labour market (n=162).

Hover over the circles to learn about the immigrant experience using social media.

Post-Arrival Labour Outcomes

How did the use of social media affect newcomers' ability to establish themselves in the Canadian labour market? In the first six months of arrival, those who used social media before arrival had, on average, a 3-to-1 advantage in getting established in the labour market versus those who did not use social media before arrival.

Hover to see differences in employment outcomes between those who used social media before arrival to search for labour market information versus those who did not.

Notably, a correlation between social media use and higher-paying jobs also emerged from our survey. Nearly 80% of immigrants who secured high-paying jobs were found to have used social media before arrival, while nearly 75% of immigrants who gained precarious, low-paying employment did not use social media before arrival. These graphs depict differences in earnings between those who used social media before arrival to search for labour market information and those who did not.

Hover to see differences in earnings between those who used social media before arrival and those who did not.

Finally, we discovered that those who used social media before arrival were more likely to find work that matches their credentials. Roughly 75% of respondents who found work that was either "very" or "quite" related to their skills used social media before their arrival. All told, it is clear that prospective immigrants who use social media to search for job opportunities prior to their arrival in Canada are able to find more secure and better paying employment that matches their existing skills. SSPOs need to recognize these trends and help prospective immigrants develop a better understanding of why and how social media use can lead to more positive labour market outcomes.

Close the Gap!

The results of this survey show that prospective immigrants are using a diversity of social media platforms prior to their arrival in Canada to search for labour market information. They are using specific platforms for targeted searches (e.g. LinkedIn for salary information). And those who do spend time investigating the Canadian labour market prior to arriving appear to have better outcomes.

What does this mean for SSPOs? As a first step, SSPOs should analyze which platforms are a good match for the services they provide, and next, they should invest their programming efforts accordingly. With a strategic focus, SSPOs will help to improve the job search results for newcomers and close the social media information gap.

More Social Media Use Research

CERC Migration is now conducting a larger pan-Canada study on how the use of social media by newcomers supports their efforts in securing employment as well as achieving other goals such as finding housing, financing, and education and training opportunities.

Also see: Monteiro, S. (2022). Social Media and Internet Usage Rates on Employment Outcomes Among Newcomers in Canada, Toronto Metropolitan University Working Paper Series.