Emerging research points to an imbalance of job losses being substantially greater to those already precariously employed and in low-paying jobs, mostly within certain sectors, and exposes inequities.
Research conducted by the Canadian Poverty Institute at Ambrose University shows the disproportionate impact on vulnerable Calgarians. The analysis shows the job losses to mainly be among visible minorities, recent immigrants and persons living alone, and goes further to discuss the potential consequences of economic shock on vulnerable workers, many of whom were already financially insecure pre-pandemic. This is no doubt a similar scenario playing out in cities across the country.
For years, many have experienced weakened job security, a rise in precarious work, slow growth in income and social safety nets faltering. The crisis has seen government commendable attempts to fill gaps this crisis has uncovered but there remain gaping holes. COVID-19 is not just a public health crisis but a crisis of financial security with necessary labour shifts creating even greater divides.
The Canadian labour market report shows more that $3 million Canadians affected, either by job loss or reduced hours. Figures show job losses to be concentrated in the goods and services sectors, the middle and lower paying occupations, with barely any movement in high paying occupations, and women’s jobs being most affected by at-home demands. April’s Labour Force Survey revealed the bleakness of the situation and showed some unsettling continuation since March’s report. The sudden shock to the labour market due to an essential economic shutdown means an ‘unprecedented’ drop in employment has been experienced. Though some job losses are due to temporary layoffs, many people don't have the financial reserves to cope. The survey also flagged that more than one third of the labour force has been under-utilized during this time.
Stats Canada’s survey on how Canadians are being impacted by COVID-19, resulted in over 200,000 responses within days. The first of a series of results to be released has found nearly 34% of respondents reporting a major or moderate impact on their finances in their ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs. 28% reported concern over losing their main job or self-employment income. An Angus Reid COVID-19 Impact Index on financial well-being and mental health shows 26% of the population to be hardest hit – reporting both their household financial situation and mental health worsening during the pandemic. A further 16% report to be financially struggling as a result of the pandemic.
All of this information helps to paint a picture of the current situation, or at least offers a glimpse into the reality for many in Canada. And can help inform equitable policies and practices that need to be implemented or sustained long into recovery. Canadians need to be set up to be able to handle shocks, and to be resilient in order to bounce back from life stressors.