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The issue of loneliness has become more visible in recent years. The US Surgeon General released a report about the healing effects of social connection and community in response to higher reports of loneliness, while the EU is supporting a campaign to end loneliness. Canada is being impacted too – Statistics Canada reports that 45.9% of people always, often, or sometimes feel lonely.

Some women who are newcomers to Canada face particular challenges relating to developing networks and social connections. This has far-reaching consequences, impacting employment rates and earnings, and even health status. In this post, we’ll look at which newcomers to Canada face these unique challenges and what can be done to overcome them. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • There is no optimal network size: the size of your ideal network will vary based on your needs and preferences. But smaller networks are associated with poorer outcomes for immigrant women. 
  • Immigrants who have been in Canada for six or more years tend to have developed similar numbers of close friends to their Canadian-born counterparts. 
  • Women who are married, unemployed, or who arrived in Canada between the ages of 15-24 face particular challenges building a strong network of close friends and acquaintances. However, immigrant women who are Black, arrived as a refugee, or do not speak an official language are most at risk of not having strong networks in Canada. 


What The Data Tells Us About Women Newcomers & Networking

Here’s what the Statistics Canada data tells us about the social networks of women newcomers to Canada: 

  • There are significant gaps in employment status, education-occupation mismatch, and employment income between immigrant men and immigrant women. Gender roles and inequalities in the settlement process play a role in this disparity. 
  • Immigrant women who are unemployed or who arrived in Canada when they were between 15-24 tend to have fewer close friends than their Canadian-born women counterparts. While those who arrive in Canada from 0 – 14 years have almost identical numbers of acquaintances and close friends to their Canadian-born counterparts.
  • Women who arrived as family-sponsored immigrants or refugees tend to have fewer close friends and immigrant women who are married tend to have fewer acquaintances than similar Canadian-born women, particularly for immigrant women who have children under 18 at home. Again, this highlights the impact that gender roles and inequalities can play on immigrant women. 

Why This Matters

The size of your social network has important impacts on your happiness and health, as well as your career prospects. Women newcomers who do not develop strong networks experience reduced ‘social capital’ which can impact career mobility and earnings. Yes – women newcomers who do not build strong networks tend to earn less than their Canadian-born counterparts. 

“Immigrants with expansive networks in Canada have higher employment rates, greater employment earnings and higher-prestige occupations than those with sparse connections or socially homogenous networks (Nakhaie & Kazemipur, 2013; Ooka & Wellman, 2006; Xue, 2008). Social connections are also associated with various other outcomes among Canadian immigrants, such as their sense of belonging to the local community (Drolet & Moorthi, 2018), life satisfaction (Li, 2020), political engagement (Gidengil & Stolle, 2009) and health status (Zhao, Xue, & Gilkinson, 2010).”


How Can Women Newcomers Develop Stronger Networks?

Improve your English or French language skills

Women immigrants who speak English or French have more close friends and acquaintances than those who did not. This makes sense, since speaking an official language really broadens the number of people you’re able to communicate with in Canada. 

If you do not have a good working knowledge of English or French, it’s worthwhile taking classes to improve, or just immersing yourself in activities, such as team sports or book clubs, where you interact with others in English or French. This is likely to have a significant impact on your social networks in Canada over time.  

Consider learning a trade

Immigrant women who received a trades certificate or diploma had, on average, more close friends and acquaintances than similar Canadian-born women. If you’re in a position to learn a trade in Canada, this may help you build strong networks as a newcomer. (Plus, Canada needs skilled tradespeople, so there are excellent job prospects and potential for high earnings!)

Know that it will likely get better in time

Finally, bear in mind that (on average) women immigrants who have lived in Canada for six or more years tend to have similar numbers of close friends to similar Canadian-born women. In other words, this too shall pass – and in just a matter of years, you are likely to have close friends to lean on. 

Seek support if your mental health is suffering

Experiencing some mental health challenges is a normal part of immigrating to Canada. Even developing mental illness is not uncommon, due to the stressors you may experience during such a big life adjustment. We published a video highlighting the state of mental health for newcomers, check it out:

If you need additional coverage to seek mental health treatment, consider our partner Cigna. Get your free quote for health insurance from Cigna.

Understand the importance of acquaintances – and make an effort to make these connections

With very few exceptions, immigrant women tend to have fewer acquaintances than similar Canadian-born women. This matters because higher numbers of acquaintances gives you more social capital, which can increase your chances of upwards career mobility and higher earnings. 

You can read our guide to networking for tips to network in Canada. 

About the author

Stephanie Ford profile picture

Stephanie Ford

Finance, Law and Immigration Writer
Stephanie is a content marketer who has written for law firms (with a focus on immigration and privacy), legal tech companies, and finance professionals for more than 9 years. She earned a Bachelor of Laws and a Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning in Australia. Stephanie is now a permanent resident of Canada and a full-time writer at Moving2Canada.
Read more about Stephanie Ford
Citation "Immigration and The Loneliness Epidemic: Challenges Women Newcomers Are Facing (& How To Overcome Them)." Moving2Canada. . Copy for Citation


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