Racialized and Indigenous workers more prone to contracting COVID-19: report

Report also showed female workers at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19

Racialized and Indigenous workers more prone to contracting COVID-19: report

Racialized and Indigenous workers are more likely to be in jobs that put them in close proximity to others, thereby increasing their risk of COVID-19 infection, according to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

The report entitled, “A Disproportionate Burden,” analyzed the labour market impacts of the pandemic on Indigenous and racialized workers in Canada and compared those impacts with non-Indigenous and white workers. It was funded by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF).

Based on the report, workers, particularly women, in some occupations have faced a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 at work. Indigenous women had the highest share of employment in occupations ranked in the top quartile for physical proximity, at 30.2 per cent. Next were non-Indigenous women at 28 per cent, followed by Indigenous men at 14.6 per cent, and then non-Indigenous men at 12.5 per cent.

The report also found the higher exposure of racialized workers to COVID-19 as 56 per cent of racialized and white women worked in close proximity to others.

The report further examined how Indigenous and racialized households have experienced greater economic hardship throughout the pandemic. It showed that from July 2020 to June 2021, an average of 28 per cent of Indigenous people and 31 per cent of racialized people lived with economic insecurity compared to 16 per cent of white people.

“Racialized and Indigenous workers have played an essential role as frontline workers during the pandemic, and they have borne a disproportionate burden of health and economic risks,” said Grace-Edward Galabuzi, a co-author of the report and an associate professor of politics and public administration at X University in Toronto.

Other key findings of the report are the following:

  • The unemployment rate gap between racialized and non-racialized workers widened during the pandemic;
  • The unemployment rate gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women widened slightly, from 3.1 per cent within the 12-month period prior to the pandemic to 3.4 per cent over the first 12 months of the pandemic, widening further to 3.9 per cent by the end June 2021;
  • The recovery of Indigenous women’s employment has been much slower than for non-Indigenous women, but by June 2021, average employment for Indigenous women was slightly above the pre-pandemic level;
  • While the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous men’s employment rate remained high, at 9.3 per cent by June 2021, Indigenous men’s employment increased by 6.8 per cent.

“This study puts concrete numbers behind something that was already abundantly clear: far from being a great equalizer, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and widened underlying structural inequality in Canada and has more severely affected marginalized people,” said Sheila Block, another co-author of the report and CCPA senior economist.

“Our economic systems have historically prevented many racialized Canadians from having fair economic opportunities,” said CRRF Executive Director Mohammed Hashim. “The pandemic has only deepened those gaps and made it even harder for several racialized communities to recover.”

“This report highlights the need to modernize employment equity to eliminate the socioeconomic disparities experienced by racialized Canadians during this pandemic and hopefully, beyond,” Hashim added.

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