‘Colour code’ keeps workers out of good jobs: Study

Higher unemployment, lower wages for racialized Canadians

Despite an increasingly diverse population, a “colour code” is still at work in Canada’s labour market, according to a report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Wellesley Institute. Racialized Canadian workers earned only 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized Canadian workers in 2006, reflecting barriers in Canada’s workplaces, they said.

“During the heyday of Canada’s pre-recession economic boom, racialized Canadians were more willing to work but experienced higher levels of unemployment and earned less income than non-racialized Canadians,” said co-author Grace-Edward Galabuzi, a CCPA board member and professor at Ryerson University in Toronto. “The distribution of work tells a disturbing story: Equal access to opportunity eludes many racialized Canadians.”

Canada’s Colour Coded Labour Market draws on 2006 census data from Statistics Canada to compare work and income trends among racialized and non-racialized Canadians. It found, during the boom years, racialized Canadians had an unemployment rate of 8.6 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent for non-racialized Canadians.

On average, non-racialized Canadian earnings grew marginally (2.7 per cent) between 2000-2005, when the economy grew by 13.1 per cent. But the average income of racialized Canadians declined by 0.2 per cent, said the report.

“The work racialized Canadians are able to attain is more likely to be insecure, temporary and low-paying,” said co-author Sheila Block, director of economic analysis at the Wellesley Institute. “Despite an increasingly diverse population, a colour code is firmly in place.”

Racialized workers are also over-represented in industries with precarious low-paid jobs, under-represented in public administration and more likely to work in the light manufacturing sector, found the report. And in 2005, 19.8 per cent of racialized families lived in poverty, compared to 6.4 per cent of non-racialized families.

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