Skin colour matters in access to good jobs

Posted by admin on Mar 21st, 2011

Mon Mar 21 2011. Nicholas Keung Toronto Star Immigration Reporter

A “colour code” is keeping visible minorities out of good jobs in the Canadian labour market, a new study says. Based on 2006 long-form Census data, researchers found visible minority Canadian workers earned 81.4 cents for every dollar paid to their Caucasian counterparts. That’s according to a report by two major think tanks, the Wellesley Institute and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Researchers compared earnings of first-generation immigrants of visible minority and Caucasian backgrounds and found that earnings by male newcomers from visible minorities were just 68.7 per cent of those who were white males.

The colour code persisted for second-generation Canadians with similar education and age, though the gap narrowed slightly — with visible minority women making 56.5 cents, up from 48.7 cents in 2000, for every dollar white men earned, while minority men in the same cohort improved by almost 7 cents, to 75.6 cents.

“There is a disparity between racialized and non-racialized Canadians,” said Sheila Block, Wellesley Institute’s director of economic analysis and a co-author of the report to be released Monday. “The immigrant experience differs if you are racialized. This is an issue of race.”

Among the study’s key findings:

• In 2006, during the boom years, visible minorities had an unemployment rate of 8.6 per cent, compared with 6.2 per cent for white Canadians.

• Caucasians’ earnings grew on average 2.7 per cent between 2000 and 2005 — “tepid” income gains considering the 13.1 per cent economic growth; the average income of visible minorities declined 0.2 per cent.

• Visible minorities are overrepresented in the hard-hit light-manufacturing sector, with many precarious low-paid jobs, but under-represented in public administration.

• The colour code contributes to higher poverty levels: In 2005, 19.8 per cent of visible minority families lived in poverty, compared with 6.4 per cent of their white counterparts.

• In 2005, the average full-time, full-year employment income for visible minorities was $43,979, compared with $52,345 for white workers.

What is most troublesome, Block said, is that visible minorities were so under-represented in public administration, where 92 per cent of workers were white. In 2006, 16.2 per cent of Canadians were part of a visible minority group, and that rate is expected to double by 2031.

“We are not talking about workers in hospital or school, but people making government policy,” said Block. “This is a great concern because an important voice wasn’t at the table.”

Report co-author Grace-Edward Galabuzi said the federal employment equity program has been effective in boosting access and mobility among women and people with disabilities within the government. The lagging representation of visible-minority staff speaks to a need for targeted hiring.

Provincial employment standards must also be reformed to evolve with the 21st century workplace, where jobs are becoming more volatile and disposable.

“We need a more systemic approach to the problem, so access to employment is transparent and it is a level playing field for all populations,” said Galabuzi, a Ryerson University public administration professor.

Earnings by race between 2000 and 2005

Arab: $30,452 (in 2000), $29,441 (in 2005), -3.3% (per cent change)

Black: $28,215 (in 2000), $28,012 (in 2005), -0.7% (per cent change)

Chinese: $32,354 (in 2000), $32,981 (in 2005), 1.9% (per cent change)

Filipino: $28,542 (in 2000), $29,393 (in 2005), 3.0% (per cent change)

Latin American: $26,034 (in 2000), $26,241 (in 2005), 0.8% (per cent change)

Japanese: $42,579 (in 2000), $42,177 (in 2005), -0.9% (per cent change)

Korean: $27,149 (in 2000), $25,892 (in 2005), -4.6% (per cent change)

South Asian: $31,486 (in 2000), $31,103 (in 2005), -1.2% (per cent change)

Southeast Asian: $28,958 (in 2000), $28,880 (in 2005), -0.3% (per cent change)

West Asian: $27,101 (in 2000), $26,279 (in 2005), -3.0% (per cent change)


Total racialized: $30,451 (in 2000), $30,385 (in 2005), -0.2% (per cent change)

Total non-racialized: $36,353 (in 2000), $37,332 (in 2005), 2.7% (per cent change)

Source: Canada’s Colour Coded Labour market

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