South Asian unemployment reaches new heights in Canada

Manisha Singh (@yourwishpoetry)

As COVID continues to pose challenges in our communities, new data reported by Statistics Canada points towards another, and perhaps unexpected, obstacle amid the pandemic: South Asian Canadians are identifiably among the highest unemployed groups in Canada.

Sharing the “spotlight” with Arabs (a category defined by Stats Can) and Black Canadians, the unemployment rate among these groups is disproportionately larger than other Canadian minorities.

According to Statistics Canada, “the national unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 69 was 11.3% in July. Several groups had rates of joblessness significantly above this average, including South Asian (17.8%), Arab (17.3%), and Black (16.8%) Canadians. Among South Asian Canadians, women (20.4%) had a significantly higher unemployment rate than men (15.4%). Black women also had a higher unemployment rate than Black men (18.6% vs 15.1%).”

Although Arab and Black Canadians are among the highest unemployed in Canada, it is South Asian and Chinese Canadian minorities who have experienced the largest increase in COVID-related unemployment. 

At the beginning of the year when news of the virus began circulating, media coverage of the pandemic included racially motivated messages, blaming China for the outbreak. President Donald Trump can even be quoted as saying the “Chinese Virus,” when referring to COVID-19.

Soon after, multiple videos surfaced on the internet showing Chinese citizens falling victim to racist harassment, also being blamed for the vicious outbreak.

Data from Statistics Canada suggests that the disproportionate unemployment rate has to do with the fact that South Asian and Chinese Canadians are a large part of the workforce making up industries that were hit the hardest by the pandemic, showing that the burden placed on racialized communities operates on multiple levels.

It is safe to assume that there are many factors contributing to the fact that South Asians and other minorities are among the highest unemployed Canadians, and it is evident that the underlying issues of racism and inequity continue to permeate our communities in new ways. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more apparent how many more barriers are prevalent for minority communities. However, by speaking on and shining light on these disparities, we can better come together to find proactive and productive solutions.

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