Addressing inequities affecting immigrants key to economic recovery

Shelby Thevenot
Published: August 6, 2020

Canada will need to address inequalities that have been exemplified by the coronavirus outbreak in order to make a full economic recovery, a new report says.

Immigrants, racialized people, LGBTQ2S+ and women have bared the brunt of the pandemic, according to the YWCA and the University of Toronto’s paper: “A Feminist Economic Recovery Plan for Canada.” The report outlines how COVID-19 has affected these groups and makes recommendations for Canadian policymakers to ensure a fast and equitable post-pandemic economy.

“There was the focus on migrants and immigrants in the report because they play such a central role in what’s called the ‘essential economy,’ these jobs that are so necessary to keep our society running and yet governments have not enacted policy that ensures they are protected,” Carmina Ravanera, who co-authored the report, told CIC News.

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Previous economic downturns have primarily impacted goods-producing industrial sectors where men were more likely to be laid off, the report says. Coronavirus, however, has affected women more than men in the number of infections and the number of deaths. Women are the frontline workers of the pandemic. About 56 per cent of women workers are concentrated in occupations like care, cashiering, catering, cleaning and clerical functions.

The pandemic has also revealed how migrant workers are essential to the economy, yet those working in long-term care homes and on farms may be exposed to unsafe environments and unable to take sick days.

Supporting the care economy helps immigrants

Migrant workers make up a large portion of workers in long term care homes. A Quebec non-profit, Maison d’Haiti, estimates about 1,000 asylum-seekers are working in the province’s health sector alone. So far there has been no further development on a pathway to permanent residence for these “guardian angels.”

The pandemic has shown how important migrant workers are to the care economy, the report said. It also discussed the importance of investing in social infrastructure and the care economy in supporting the economy overall.

Research from the U.K. predicts spending 1.9 per cent of GDP in care would create 2 million sustainable jobs, raise the employment rate by 5 per cent and reduce the gender employment gap by 4 per cent.

Other research has shown that investing in care services results in direct returns for the government. In 2008, each $100 invested that the Quebec government invested in childcare returned $104 to the provincial government and $43 to the federal government.

The report recommended that policymakers consult organizations that support migrant worker caregivers in decision-making for pandemic recovery. They also said to create an expedited path to permanent resident status for migrant care workers, provide personal protective equipment, conduct rigorous inspections on working conditions, and ensure they have access to income supports.

“We are just trying to emphasize as much as possible how important it is to focus on inequity in Canada when we’re doing recovery policies,” Ravanera said. “If we don’t focus on these inequities now then we’re not going to be able to have a resilient and robust economic recovery across the country.”

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