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Canada’s colour coded labour market

The last available cencus data before the federal government cancelled the country’s mandatory long form Census reveals a troubling trend in Canada. Despite years of unprecedented economic growth and an increasingly diverse population, this report confirms what so many Canadians have experienced in real life: a colour code is still at work in Canada’s labour market. Racialized1 Canadians encounter a persistent colour code that blocks them from the best paying jobs our country has to offer. This report uses the 2006 long form Census data to compare work and income trends among racialized and non-racialized Canadians during the heyday of the economic boom. It finds that even in the best of economic times, the pay gap between racialized and non-racialized Canadians is large: Racialized Canadians earn only 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to non-racialized Canadians. The income gap stems from disparities in the distribution of good paying, more secure jobs. The data show racialized Canadians have slightly higher levels of labour market participation, yet they continue to experience higher levels of unemployment and earn less income than non-racialized Canadians. The work they’re able to attain is much more likely to be insecure, temporary, and low paying. For example, this report shows that racialized Canadians are over-represented in a range of traditionally low-paid business services ranging from call centres to security services to janitorial services, while non-racialized Canadians are not.The data show that if there is work to do, racialized Canadians are willing to do it: 67.3% of racialized Canadians are in the labour force–slightly higher than nonracialized Canadians (66.7%). Though they’re more willing to work, all racialized groups–except those who identify as Japanese and Filipino–tend to find themselves on the unemployment line more often than non-racialized Canadians. Racialized men are 24% more likely to be unemployed than non-racialized men. Racialized women have it worse: They’re 48% more likely to be unemployed than non-racialized men. This may contribute to the fact that racialized women earn 55.6% of the income of non-racialized men. The Census data makes clear: Between 2000 and 2005, during the one of the best economic growth periods for Canada, racialized workers contributed to that economic growth but they didn’t enjoy the benefits. On average, non-racialized Canadian earnings grew marginally (2.7%) during this period–tepid income gains considering the economy grew by 13.1%. But the average income of racialized Canadians declined by 0.2%. And this was before recession hit Canada in 2008. The findings raise troubling questions about one of the fastest growing groups in Canadian society. The demographic composition of Canada is quickly changing, but labour market policies are lagging. In the 1980s, racialized groups accounted for less than 5% of Canada’s population. By the 2001 Census, racialized Canadians made up 13.4% of the population. Between the 2001 and 2006 Census taking, that population had grown by 27%–five times faster than the rate of growth for the broader Canadian population. In 2006, 16.2% of the population came from a racialized group. By 2031, it’s estimated racialized Canadians will make up 32% of the population. The country’s demographic composition is undergoing major transformation. If the labour market continues to relegate workers from racialized groups to the back of the pack, the number of Canadians left behind will only accelerate–calling into question the promise that Canada is a fair and caring society committed to equal opportunities, no matter who you are and where you come from. Default explanations like œit takes a while for immigrants to integrate don’t bear out. Even when you control for age and education, the data show first generation racialized Canadian men earn only 68.7% of what non-racialized first-generation Canadian men earn, indicating a colour code is firmly at play in the labour market. Here, the gender gap–at play throughout the spectrum–becomes disturbingly large: Racialized women immigrants earn only 48.7 cents for every dollar non-racialized male immigrants earn. The colour code persists for second generation Canadians with similar education and age. The gap narrows, with racialized women making 56.5 cents per dollar non-racialized men earn; while racialized men earn 75.6 cents for every dollar nonracialized men in this cohort earn. While noting many similarities across different racialized groups, the report also highlights some differences. For example, the gap in earnings ranges from 69.5cents per dollar for those who identify as Korean to 89 cents per dollar for those who identify as Chinese. This report captures the ongoing racialization of poverty in Canada. Poverty rates for racialized families are three times higher than non-racialized families. In 2005, 19.8% of racialized families lived in poverty, compared to 6.4% of non-racialized families. Finally, the report makes the links between low-income jobs, the racialization of poverty, and the impacts both have on the health of racialized Canadians.