Knowledge Center

Visible Minorities in Canada

The Employment Equity Act defines as visible minorities “persons, other than Aboriginal persons, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.” The visible minority population consists mainly of the following groups: South Asian, Chinese, Black, Filipino, Latin American, Arab, Southeast Asian, West Asian, Korean, and Japanese. The other three designated groups under the Employment Equity Act are women, Aboriginal people, and people with disabilities.1


Over One-Fifth of Canadians Are Visible Minorities2

7,674,585 visible minorities live in Canada, 22.3% of the total population in 2016.3

The Visible Minority Population Is Increasing4

In the 2006 Census, visible minorities were 16.2% of the population.5

  • By 2036, they are projected to be about a third of the population.6
Over Half of Visible Minorities Are Women7

Women are 51.5% of all visible minorities.8

Most Visible Minorities Live in Urban Areas9

95.9% of visible minorities live in census metropolitan areas.10 

Visible Minority Populations Are Young

The median age of visible minorities in 2016 was 33.9.11

  • For the overall population, the median age was 40.7.12


South Asians, Chinese, and Blacks Are the Largest Visible Minority Groups13

The largest group, South Asians, are 5.6% of Canada's total population.14

Visible Minority Populations in Canada15

Total Visible Minority Population Percentage

South Asian








Latin American




Visible Minorities Are Highly Educated

Of visible minorities aged 25–64, 68.9% have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, compared to 64.1% in the general population.16

  • 52.4% of visible minority women have a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree compared to 47.5% of visible minority men.17

  • 51.0% of visible minority women have a university certificate, diploma or degree at bachelor level or above compared to 49% of visible minority men.18

  • 38.2% of visible minorities have a university certificate, diploma or degree at bachelor level or above, compared to 25.9% of the general population.19

Labour Force

Two-Thirds of Visible Minorities Are in the Labour Force20

66.5% of visible minorities were in the labour force in 2016.21

  • Visible minority women had a labour force participation rate of 61.9% in 2016.22

  •  Visible minority men had a labour force participation rate of 71.5% in 2016.23

Visible Minority Women Hold Almost 40% of Management Positions Occupied by All Visible Minorities24

This is about equal to the percentage of management occupations held by all women across Canada (37.4%).25

  • However, visible minority women aged 25 to 54 hold only 7.8% of total management occupations.26

  • They hold 22.9% of Business, finance and administration occupations and less than 1% of Natural resources, agriculture and related production occupations.27

Representation on Boards Peaked in 2015 Before Dropping More Than a Third28

4.3% of board Directors in Financial Post 500 organizations in 2017 were visible minorities, down from 7.3% in 2015.29

However, Representation in Government Is on the Rise

In 2015, 47 visible minority MPs were elected.30

  • They now make up 14% of Canada's 42nd national parliament.31

In 2017, the first visible minority candidate was elected to lead a federal party.32

Pay Gap

Visible Minority Women Experience the Highest Wage Gap33

Visible minority women earn 84.4% of what visible minority men earn, based on median annual income for full-time workers.34

  • Visible minority women earn 70.1% of what all men earn.35

Additional Resources

Catalyst, Career Advancement in Corporate Canada: A Focus on Visible Minorities ~ Survey Findings (2007).

Douglas Quan, Have Canada's Changing Demographics Made it Time to Retire the Concept of ‘Visible Minority’? National Post, June 27, 2014.

Ryerson University, DiversityLeads 2014 Report: Key Preliminary Findings (2014).

Ryerson University, DiversityLeads—Women and Visible Minorities in Senior Leadership Positions: A Profile of Greater Montreal, Diversity Institute (February 2013).

Statistics Canada, “Visible Minority and Population Group Reference Guide,” National Household Survey, 2011 (2015).

Tamara Hudon, “Visible Minority Women,” Women in Canada: A Gender-Based Statistical Report (Statistics Canada, 2016).


How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Visible Minorities in Canada (April 9, 2018).