A new study shows that little if not zero progress has been made in reducing racism in labour market outcomes for visible ethnic minorities in Canada.

Titled Canada’s Colour Coded Income Inequality, the paper was released on December 9, 2019 by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

According to the study, little has changed in the work and income trends for racialized Canadians between 2006 and 2016.

For example, the study finds that racialized workers face a 9.2 percent unemployment rate compared to 7.3 percent for non-racialized workers.

There’s racism as well toward immigrants.

The study shows that racialized immigrant men and women earned $0.71 and $0.79, respectively, for every dollar earned by non-racialized immigrant men and women. 

What many first generation immigrants may want to know is that based on this study, the income gap extends into the second generation or their children, and beyond.

“A common narrative revolves around the notion that the discrimination that racialized workers face in the Canadian labour market is part of the immigrant experience and that it is common to all immigrants,” the study notes. 

“Everyone who comes to this country struggles, the story goes, especially at first, but the sacrifice is worth it because succeeding generations reap the benefits of that sacrifice and integrate rapidly—and with great success—into the labour market,” the paper continues.

However, this narrative is “not supported by the data”.

“Labour market experiences are very clearly different for racialized and non-racialized immigrants,” according to the study.

“Non-racialized immigrants do better in the Canadian labour market, and sooner, than racialized immigrants do. Income inequality between racialized and non-racialized Canadians extends beyond the immigrant experience,” the study notes. “It affects second and third generations—and beyond.”

The study cites that racialized immigrant men earned 71 cents for every dollar that non-racialized immigrant men earned. 

Moreover, racialized immigrant women earned 79 cents for every dollar that non-racialized immigrant women earned.

“Although it is smaller, that gap in employment income also holds true for Canadian-born racialized workers compared to non-racialized workers,” the study points out.

According to the study, second-generation racialized men earned 79 cents for every dollar that second-generation non-racialized men earned. 

Also, second-generation racialized women earned 96 cents for every dollar that second-generation non-racialized women earned. 

“The gap only begins to shrink markedly for those Canadians who Statistics Canada categorizes as third-generation or beyond,” the study notes. “However, the number of third-generation racialized immigrant Canadians is relatively small—just under 125,000 people, as compared to more than one million second-generation and five million first-generation immigrants.”

The paper notes that for first-generation Canadians, the earnings gap “varies substantially by racialized group”. 

“The largest earnings gap is observed for immigrants who identified as West Asian (they earned 67 cents for every dollar that non-racialized immigrants earned), while the smallest gap is for those who identified as ‘multiple visible minorities’ (they earned 82 cents for every dollar that non-racialized immigrants earned),” the study states.

For second-generation racialized Canadians, the earnings gap was “much more dispersed”.

“The wage gap remained in the double digits for the majority of racialized groups, but it narrowed significantly for those who identify as South Asian,” according to the study. “Second-generation Canadians who identified as Chinese, Korean or Japanese earned about the same as non-racialized Canadians.”

“There is a lot of variability in income levels by racialized group between first generations and third-and-beyond generations,” the study goes on. “Two groups, those who identified as Korean or Japanese, had average earnings that were 53% and 24% higher, respectively, than the earnings of non-racialized Canadians.”

“What stands out is that those who identified as Black, Latin American or Filipino consistently had a large earnings gap despite the length of time their families had been in Canada,” the study notes.

The paper was authored by Sheila Block, senior economist with the CCPA in Ontario; Grace-Edward Galabuzi, associate professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University; and CCPA-Ontario senior researcher Ricardo Tranjan.

“The data point to a clear pattern of racialized economic inequality in Canada,” Block said in a news release.

Galabuzi said in the same release that in the “absence of bold new policies to combat systemic racism and to advance equity in employment, these trends show no signs of improving”.

Tranjan noted that these are the “results of decades and decades of policies that have supported some communities while neglecting or marginalizing others”. 


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