Filipino youth face significant barriers to social mobility, says study

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Montreal – Canadian research has found there is considerable upward mobility among the children of immigrants, but Filipino youth are not always part of that success story. A new IRPP study finds they are less likely to hold a degree than their parents and their peers in other immigrant groups.

Philip Kelly, director of the York Centre for Asian Research, collaborated with the Community Alliance for Social Justice (Toronto) and Aksyon Ng Ating Kabataan (Winnipeg) in this study. He stresses the importance of better understanding the reasons for these outcomes. Indeed, since 2009 the Philippines has been the top or second-ranking source country for immigration to Canada. Using interviews with community leaders to supplement statistical data, he explores the factors that lead to Filipino youth having educational and employment outcomes that are “anomalously poorer than we might expect them to be.”

One factor is that family life is shaped by financial hardship. Parents often work extra jobs and hours or in sectors that require irregular and shift work. This results in little time for parental oversight and support for children – and in some cases extended periods of family separation. 

This applies in particular to those who have come to Canada under the Live-in Caregiver Program, where 90 percent of workers are from the Philippines. “Although the program helps fulfill the need for child care in Canada, it creates a rupture in the future-Canadian families of the caregivers themselves.

Noting that social networks tend to determine educational choices and employment trajectories, Kelly finds that Filipino networks are often limited to Filipino friends and relatives. This leads to labour market marginality being reproduced from one generation to the next. The lack of role models and mentors in the larger community, especially for boys, is a further problem.

Kelly makes a number of recommendations, some of which would also apply to other immigrant-background communities:

  • intensify efforts to improve access to professions and credential recognition,
  • recognize the importance of extended families in the success of the next generation,
  • lessen the precarity of those in the Live-in Caregiver Program by considering giving workers permanent residence upon arrival, and
  • support role modelling and mentoring, particularly to improve educational achievement among males.


Understanding Intergenerational Social Mobility: Filipino Youth in Canada, by Philip Kelly, can be downloaded from the Institute’s website at

For more details or to schedule an interview, please contact Shirley Cardenas at 514-594-6877 or

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