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Demand Equity

Canada's Women of Colour Have Been Left Out of COVID-19 Job Recovery Efforts

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Canada has recovered more than 80% of the jobs lost at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, but women of colour in particular have struggled to return to work, according to Reuters

The unemployment rate for women of colour was 10.5% in November, which is 0.5% higher than the rate for their male counterparts, and more than 4% higher than the rate for white women, according to official data from Statistics Canada (StatCan). 

“What we’re seeing ... is the unequal impact of this pandemic on diverse groups of Canadians,” Lynn Barr-Telford, an assistant chief statistician at StatCan, told Reuters.

Women in general have faced greater work inequalities in Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic, partly because they tend to work in industries most affected by closures, including hospitality and food services, retail trade, and educational services. 

Women have also had to shoulder more child care responsibilities during the pandemic as kids are forced to stay home from daycare and school. 

The economic impacts of the pandemic have proven to be more detrimental and long-lasting to women of colour. 

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Since women of colour are more likely to work in the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, the COVID-19 job recovery process for them is more difficult. They also face systematic disadvantages that can prevent them from getting a job or staying employed, such as less access to high-speed internet and flexible daycare.

White women, on the other hand, “tend to be in better paid jobs that are less precarious and they have more resources at their disposal,” Wendy Cukier, founder of the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management, told Reuters. These advantages make them less vulnerable to being furloughed and more likely to be hired in current circumstances. 

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There are also differences within the population of women of colour. The StatCan data reveals that Black women had the highest unemployment rate at 13.4% in November. Four months prior, they had a rate of 18.6%. 

South Asian women’s jobless rate (20.4%) was highest among minority groups in July, when StatCan conducted the first survey. However, in November, the rate had dropped to around 10%. 

Chinese Canadian women, meanwhile, are the furthest from their pre-pandemic employment levels with an unemployment rate of 10.2% in November.

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“We have diversity within diversity, of course,” Barr-Telford said. “So not all groups are experiencing the labor market shutdown the same.”

Although not included in this report, StatCan also revealed the pandemic’s impact on Indigenous women, who have had a jobless rate of nearly 17% from June to August, according to Reuters. 

The disparity in economic stability between white and minority women is not just an issue in Canada. A recent United Nations report shows that only 1 in 8 countries have measures in place to protect women from the social and economic impacts of COVID-19.

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If countries continue to leave women behind in COVID-19 recovery plans, 47 million women and girls could be pushed into poverty as a result of the pandemic. 

As the second wave of the pandemic leads to renewed business closures, Canada’s job recovery process is slowing down, meaning that vulnerable populations like women of colour will continue to be out of work and without a stable income.