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In Canada, most adults work outside the home.

Full-time jobs are common. However, a growing number of people have part-time jobs or temporary contracts. Women make up a large portion of the work force. Increasingly, they have important, senior positions.

Canadians often change jobs and careers several times. This is often a personal choice. Sometimes people must change jobs because the economy itself changes. Today, there are more new jobs in service occupations than in manufacturing.

For these and other reasons, getting a job is not easy. Many people are looking for work. Unemployment in Canada affects a large number of people -- not just newcomers.

This situation may surprise you, especially if you come from a country where careers can last a lifetime. However, if you prepare yourself well and keep trying, you will eventually find a job.

Looking for a Job

Information about jobs is available from many sources. Newspapers have classified advertisements that list jobs by occupation. Stores needing workers often put a sign in the window. People you meet may know of a business that is hiring. It is important to ask people and keep aware of opportunities.

The Human Resource Centers (HRCs) of Human Resources Development Canada offer useful information and services for people seeking work. These offices operate as labour exchanges. Employers list jobs at the HRC so unemployed workers can register and be made aware of available work.

You can often get help finding a job from volunteer or immigrant service agencies. Some of these are specially designed for newcomers. In large cities, there are usually associations of people who share your background and language who can help you. You can find these associations and agencies listed in the telephone book.

A good résumé, also known as a curriculum vitae (CV), is an important tool in your search for a job. A résumé is a summary of your qualifications and work experience. It should be clear, concise and contain the following information:

  • your name, address and telephone number;
  • A history of where you have worked and the type of jobs you have done; and
  • A list of your education and training.

Networking is also important for finding a job. This means talking to people you know or meet about the kind of job you are looking for. The people you talk with may tell you about a job, or about other people with ideas and information. Most jobs are not advertised and are filled through personal contacts.

HRC offices and non-governmental or volunteer agencies can help you learn how to prepare a résumé, to network, and to promote yourself and your abilities.

Remember: looking for a job is itself a full-time job. Do not become discouraged. Almost everyone who is looking for work has many failures before they succeed.

Qualifications and Experience

Training and education, as well as speaking English or French, will improve your chances of getting the kind of job you want. There is information on job training in the next section of this book.

If you are a professional, such as a doctor, lawyer, nurse or engineer, you may not be able to practice your profession in Canada. In most cases you must re-qualify. Qualifications vary by profession and province.

Like other Canadians, you may also have to re-qualify if you move from one province to another. This may mean studying and writing qualifying exams. The process may take up to a year. If you do not take steps to re-qualify, you may have to start again at the bottom of your profession.

In some professions there are limits to the number of places available for training. In addition, those who have graduated from Canadian schools usually get preference. For information on requirements and opportunities, contact your local immigrant service agency or the relevant professional association.

Qualifications alone may not get you the job you want. Employers look for experienced people who will become productive immediately. They may not want to hire someone without Canadian experience or who seems unable to cope with Canadian ways.

Because of this, many newcomers take a first job outside their trade or profession. This often means working for lower wages than they expect or can eventually earn. You may want to look for a basic job that will help you learn or improve your English or French.

Starting with a job that does not meet your expectations should not limit your potential. Many people who are now professionals, business people, senior industrialists, academics and public servants once worked as waiters, manual workers, cleaners and at other lower-paying jobs.

Discrimination and Exploitation

Canada promotes equality in the workplace. The law protects people from discrimination based on who they are. However, it does not interfere with an employer's right to decide who is the best person for a job.

Laws and customs are changing to ensure equal pay and opportunities for men and women. However, women are still sometimes not paid fairly. Women hold only a small percentage of the highly paid, influential positions.

Each province has a Human Rights Commission that checks reported acts of discrimination. If you feel that you have been discriminated against because of your race, creed, origin or sex, keep a written record of the facts. Then, seek advice from the Human Rights Commission.

Some people may try to take advantage of you. You, your friends or a member of your family may meet dishonest people -- some of whom might speak your language or even come from your country.

Each province has labour laws designed to protect workers. If an offer seems contrary to law, custom or your conscience, check with someone you trust. No honest business person will object if you take advice from a lawyer or friend before risking your time or money.

If you feel that you are being exploited, or that the employment information you have been given is false, contact Human Resources Development Canada or your provincial department of labour. These departments can sometimes arrange to have a person explain the situation in your own language. You may also wish to contact the Human Rights Commission.

National (general) Holidays

Canadians have several holidays each year. They provide opportunities to rest from work or school and to spend time with family and friends.

Depending on which province you live in, nine or ten official holidays are celebrated each year:

  • Christmas Day, December 25;
  • Boxing Day, December 26 (observed in most provinces);
  • New Year's Day, January 1;
  • Good Friday (Easter), which occurs in March or April;
  • Victoria Day, May 24, the Queen's official birthday (not a holiday in Quebec);
  •  Canada Day, July 1, celebrating the birth of the country in 1867;
  • The first Monday in August (a local holiday observed in most provinces);
  • Labour Day, the first Monday in September;
  • Thanksgiving Day, the second Monday in October; and
  • Remembrance Day, November 11 (not a full-day holiday for most people).

Government offices, banks and most businesses close for official holidays. However, many services and businesses, such as theatres and restaurants, remain open. If you are required to work on an official holiday, your employer must give you equivalent time off at a later date or pay you overtime.

In addition to official holidays, your employer must provide you with a paid vacation- Two weeks is required by law in most full-time jobs. Your vacation may increase to three weeks or more once you have been working for the same company for several years.

Sometimes you may need to be away from work for religious reasons. Your employer will usually make suitable arrangements. For example, a colleague may agree to work for you if you agree to work for him or her some other time. You may also be able to use part of your normal vacation time in advance.

Income Security

Once you are employed, you are eligible to receive several types of income protection and social benefits. You must help pay for some of these benefits through deductions on your pay cheque.

Your employer normally deducts contributions to an Employment Insurance fund from your pay cheque. If you lose your job, contact a counselor at your nearest Human Resource Centre. Employment Insurance benefits are not paid to workers who quit without a good reason, who are fired for a good reason or who have not worked for a certain period of time.

You must continue to look for another job while you are collecting Employment Insurance benefits. Human Resource Centres may be able to offer you an employment training program.

Workers' Compensation and income support, or disability pension payments, may be available to people who can no longer work because they have been injured on the job. You may be required to support this program -- deductions may be made automatically from your pay cheque.

Trade Unions

Nearly 30 percent of all workers in civilian jobs are members of unions. In a unionized job or industry, labour and management follow laws, regulations and practices established through a bargaining process.

It is not necessary to join a union to get all jobs. However, in some jobs, you must join the union when you accept the job. Membership in a union requires the payment of union dues, which are deducted from your pay cheque.

Volunteer Agencies

Canada has many organizations that depend on volunteers. Many Canadians and newcomers give their time and talent to these organizations. Working as a volunteer is an excellent way to get job experience, make contacts and show your skills. Volunteer work is well respected and can give you Canadian references and experience. It can also help you to meet new people.

Employment Laws

A variety of federal and provincial laws apply to people who operate their own business or work for an organization. For example:

Minimum wage laws ensure that employees receive at least basic compensation for their work.

Laws protect employees against employers who treat them unfairly. Employees can object to unjust treatment based on sex, age, race, religion or disability.

Safety standards protect employees from unsafe machinery or workplaces.

Child labour laws control the hours and types of work that can be offered to minors.

Full-time employees must receive holidays.

Employers must deduct income taxes and certain compulsory payments such as Employment Insurance, Worker's Compensation and the Canada Pension Plan (in Quebec, the Quebec Pension Plan). Self-employed people must also contribute to the Canada Pension Plan.

If you employ members of your family, you still must observe these laws and regulations.

If you are self-employed, some business expenses can be deducted from your taxable income. Tax laws and regulations are complicated. You should get advice on this subject from National Revenue or a certified accountant.

For further information:

Human Resource Centers are listed in the government section of the telephone book. Ethnic, national and religious organizations that offer help to newcomers are found in your telephone book.

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) has a book for newcomers interested in starting their own business in Canada. It is called Starting a Business in Canada: A Guide for New Canadians. In addition, the BDC offers a wide range of management training, counseling and planning services for entrepreneurs.

Fact sheets are available to newcomers on "Employment" and "Health and Income Security".


Language Training

English and French are the two official languages of Canada. It is much easier to get help and adapt to life in Canada if you speak English or French.

If you are interested in expanding your knowledge of French or English, there is a program paid for by the federal government, which may be able to help you or a member of your family. This program is called Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC). To qualify for this program you must be a permanent resident or someone who has been allowed to remain in Canada waiting for permanent resident status and who has not become a Canadian citizen. An immigrant service agency or your local immigration office should be able to help you enroll in a LINC course.

If you require advanced training to help you get job skills or use the skills that you already have there is a program called Labour Market Language Training (LMLT). This training can be either in a classroom or on the job. Talk to your local immigrant service agency or contact a Human Resource Centre or an immigration office.

Job and Skills Training

In addition to language training there are a number of other ways that you can train for a new job or improve the skills that you already have. Universities and colleges are some of the places where you can improve your skills or learn new ones. There are also private schools that allow you to complete a degree faster than at a university or college. An immigrant service agency or your local Human Resource Centre should be able to give you a list of educational institutions in your area.

Trade and vocational training is different in every province. Generally, training is offered at community colleges or vocational centres. It is sometimes available at work through government-funded training courses designed for particular regions or certain groups of people, such as newcomers or Aboriginal peoples.

Qualifications for trades such as hairdressers, electricians and carpenters are controlled in each province. A tradesperson begins at the apprentice level and then, after training, on-the-job experience and examinations, progresses to journeyman. If you move to another province you may have to re-qualify.

In Canada, it is very difficult to find employment if you have not completed high school or earned an equivalent diploma. Canadians are starting to realize that learning does not finish when they receive a diploma or certificate -- it is continuous. It is common to see older Canadians going back to school part-time to keep their skills fresh.

For further information:

The Hot 100, A Quick Guide to Federal Programs and Services for Youth offers comprehensive information on more than 100 federal government programs and services for youth in the area of education, training, employment, business opportunities and travel.


Your first Canadian pay cheque may seem large. However, the cost of living may be much higher here than in your native country. Learning how to budget, save and spend your money wisely will help you live securely and plan for the future.

Budgeting helps you avoid overspending and debt. An immigrant service agency can help you develop your budget. For example, divide your monthly income into essentials such as rent, food, clothing, transportation and education expenses (books, paper, etc.). Then decide how much you should spend on entertainment and luxuries. Make choices -- including the choice not to buy now.

Gross vs. Net Income

The salary your employer has agreed to pay you will be stated in gross terms. Your take-home or net salary will be less than the gross amount. Normally, a large portion of the amount you earn will be deducted automatically from your pay to pay for taxes and government insurance and benefits programs. In addition, your employer may require you to contribute to private company pension plans, union dues, group life insurance and other non-government programs.

The total of all these deductions can be between one quarter and one third of your total pay cheque. In other words, the amount you actually receive may be only 65 percent to 75 percent of your gross salary. You should remember that each of these deductions pays for a benefit, either in terms of job security, life insurance or a pension.

Necessities vs. Luxuries

Paying for basic food, shelter and clothing will probably take most of your income. Rent will take a large portion and so will food. If you eat regularly in restaurants or buy luxury foods, the cost of feeding your family will be much higher than if you shop in supermarkets. Careful shopping can also keep your clothing expenses low.

Luxuries are things you do not absolutely need. Cars, clothes, travel and long-distance telephone calls can be necessities or luxuries, depending on your business or point of view. Alcohol and cigarettes may also be considered luxuries. They are expensive because they are heavily taxed.

Owning and operating a car is costly. In addition to the cost of the vehicle, you must pay for licensing and insurance, gasoline, oil, parking fees and maintenance.

Borrowing Money

You can borrow money for any lawful purpose. This includes getting an education, buying property, or setting up and running a business. Of course, all borrowed money must be repaid in full, plus interest.

Many people get loans from banks. In Canada, the federal government regulates banks. Institutions other than banks also lend money. There are businesses that do nothing else. However, some lenders and businesses increase their profits by increasing the amount of interest they charge. Before you borrow money, get advice from people you trust.

Credit Cards

Credit cards are obtained from banks. You can also get credit cards from department stores or gasoline companies. Store or company credit cards usually charge more interest than bank credit cards.

Credit cards are convenient but they do have risks. Many credit cards have an annual cost, which you pay whether or not you use them. In addition, most credit cards charge you a much higher rate of interest than bank loans. If you pay only the minimum payment due, all you are doing is paying the credit card company interest on money it has loaned to you. You are not paying off your debt.

A Word to the Wise

In Canada you will see many things that you might like to own. Through advertising, companies encourage you to buy their products, even if you do not really need them or cannot afford them. Some salespeople and acquaintances may try very hard to sell you things. You may feel pressured to borrow and spend money. It is important to be careful and informed.

Some stores have special programs that let you pay up to one year later for things that you buy. These are called deferred payment programs. They may be advertised with slogans like "Do not pay until..." Be careful to read all the details of the purchase agreement. If you fail to pay on time, you will be charged interest from the day you actually took the item home from the store.


Canada's Tax System

As a newcomer to Canada, you may wonder how the Canadian income tax system works. Many of the benefits we enjoy in Canada are made possible by taxes. For example, Canada's tax system pays for roads, public utilities, schools, health care, law enforcement and many other important things.

Your Income Tax Return

Income tax applies to all Canadian residents. If you have questions about your residency status, contact your local taxation office.

In Canada, taxes are deducted from most types of income you receive. Each year, residents of Canada submit an Income Tax Return. This tells the government how much money you earned that year and determines how much tax you owe the federal and provincial governments. Like all Canadians, you are responsible for giving the government true information, and for calculating how much you should pay.

You have to submit an Income Tax Return if you lived in Canada for part or all of the year. In some cases you must pay the government when you submit your return. However, you may have already paid more than you owe through deductions on your pay cheque. In this case you may be eligible for an income tax refund.

If you lived in Quebec during the year, you may also have to file a separate provincial tax return.

The deadline for submitting your completed income tax return is April 30. If you submit your forms late and you owe tax, you will be charged a penalty plus interest.

Child Tax Benefit

The Government of Canada helps parents provide for their children through the Child Tax Benefit. If you have children who are under 18 years of age, you may be eligible for this program. It provides tax-free monthly payments for parents with children. It also provides financial support for low-income working families.

You must submit an Income Tax Return to apply for the Child Tax Benefit or the GST credit (described below), as well as other tax credits.

Goods and Services Tax (GST) Credit

Whenever you buy something, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be added to the price. The GST does not apply to food you prepare yourself and to certain other products. However, people with low incomes may be able to get all or part of this tax refunded through the GST credit. You may apply for the credit whether or not you have an income, but you must file an income tax return. More information about the GST credit is contained in your income tax return.



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