Block: A huge upside to recognizing rights for migrants living in Canada

More advocacy than balanced analysis on the pros and cons.

The argument that this will increase Canadian productivity is more wishful thinking as no studies that I am aware of demonstrate that (nor for the overall large and increasing numbers of immigrants):

“Papers, please.”

In Hollywood movies, these two words never fail to inject fear, tension and high stakes into any scene. A character whose documents are not “in order” faces serious consequences, from job loss to family separation to arrest to deportation.

For some 500,000 people in Canada, this scenario is no movie scene — it’s real life. For various reasons, they have no legal status in this country. Another 1.2 million people are here on permits that allow them to work or study, for now, but with no right to stay permanently. They have limited access to the benefits most citizens take for granted.

For these residents, this lack of status is a source of constant worry. Life without status means life without health care. It means working without the workplace protections that all workers deserve. It means no rights to minimum standards like the minimum wage, or overtime pay, or statutory holiday pay.

Undocumented workers are more likely to face wage theft, injury and sexual exploitation.

Further, the existence of a large pool of workers with few rights gives employers a ready source of cheap labour — one that is unlikely to complain for fear of job loss or worse. There are no minimum standards for workers without rights. This has a negative impact on the labour market as a whole, dragging down wages and working conditions for low-wage workers generally.

So it is good news that the federal government is looking at ways to “regularize” more migrants and undocumented workers to bring them into the mainstream of Canadian society. It is hard to overestimate the benefits of doing so.

The humanitarian benefits to individuals, families, and communities are obvious. The economic benefits to the country as a whole should not be overlooked.

First of all, Canada needs workers: we are currently facing a historic labour shortage. The number of job vacancies hit a record 997,000 in the second quarter of 2022, with significant worker shortages in health care, construction, manufacturing, retail, and other sectors. We need to increase the productive capacity of our economy, and there is no time to waste.

Canada’s population was aging long before COVID-19 came along, and if we do not take action the number of unfilled jobs can only increase as the share of the population over age 65 continues to grow. We need to increase the current and future working-age population, including the number of children and youth. A tidal wave of retirements is coming — indeed, it has already begun. As our nurses, teachers, construction workers and others leave the workforce, we need people to replace them.

Without an increase in the working age population, we will see a sharp drop-off in the productive capacity of our economy. While regularization alone will not solve this problem, it can be part of the solution.

Regularization holds the potential to provide a rapid upgrade to overall skill levels in the Canadian workforce and a corresponding boost in overall productivity. That’s because undocumented workers often have no choice but to work in jobs that use only a fraction of their skills, knowledge and abilities.

Without the threat of deportation hanging over them, undocumented workers will have the capacity to work more, to work more productively, and to participate more fully in the labour market and economy. This can only be good for all of us.

Regularization will also benefit the public purse. Undocumented workers already pay various taxes (sales taxes, for example), but with regularization they will contribute more, and so will their employers. More money for public services and infrastructure will be essential if we hope to meet current and future challenges.

Our country faces many urgent problems these days, but having too many people is not one of them. Regularization of the rights of migrants is a win for them and a win for Canada.

Let’s make sure everyone’s papers are in order.

Source: A huge upside to recognizing rights for migrants living in Canada

Their work is keeping Canada safe. But they earn a fraction of the national average

Another example of the COVID-19 class divide (‘White-Collar Quarantine’ Over Virus Spotlights Class Divide):

They’re the workers keeping Canada safe and healthy in the midst of a pandemic. But some — like cashiers — bring home just around a quarter of the average Canadian’s annual income.

From food processing to warehouses to delivery services, the workers deemed essential to maintaining the country’s vital supply chain are significantly more likely to be low-wage and racialized compared to the rest of the labour market, according to new statistics from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In some cases, they are bringing home less than half of the average Canadian worker a year.

“In the midst of a pandemic, many of us are going back to the essentials. We need to put food on the table for ourselves and our families. We need to have the medications that we require. And as there have been many new reports on, we all need toilet paper,” said Sheila Block, a senior economist with the CCPA.

“To keep us in these essentials, we rely on these workers whose work has often been undervalued and who are often marginalized.”

The CCPA study relied on 2016 census data, which showed average annual earnings across the entire Canadian economy stood at around $49,500. Analyzing the earnings of workers in essential jobs by both industry and occupation, Block’s research found that grocery store workers — a category that includes managers — earned on average half of that. Cashiers took home just 26 per cent.

Light duty cleaners fared poorly too, earning just over 40 per cent of the national average. Couriers and door-to-door messengers brought home just over 50 per cent.

Racialized workers make up 21 per cent of the total workforce in Canada, but they were overrepresented in sectors deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, the CCPA’s analysis found.

In warehousing and storage, for example, racialized workers made up 37 per cent of the workforce; in food manufacturing, that figure was 30 per cent.

Kulwinder Singh, a truck driver based out of Mississauga, says he is working 10 to 12 hour days bringing goods to Shoppers Drug Mart, Sobeys, and the LCBO. He says the deliveries he makes every day are “essential” — but he’s afraid to come home at the end of his shift to his wife and daughter.

“It’s very risky,” he said.

As an independent owner/operator, he is technically self-employed — meaning he has no health insurance, no medical leave, and no access to protective equipment except for what he purchases himself.

“Everything I’m paying for out of my own pocket,” he said, adding that some companies will not let him use washroom facilities to wash his hands.

The CCPA study notes that many of the sectors deemed essential have low unionization rates; in Canada, less than 8 per cent of retail workers have a union.

Many essential workers — including truck drivers and most gig workers — are classified as independent contractors, meaning they struggle to join unions and or access basic employment protections.

“There is a real divide between the people who can self isolate and who can work from home and the people that we rely on to make that possible,” said Block.

“We have to be particularly concerned that we are relying on industries that have a history of rights violations in this time. These rights violations have historically been threatening to workers’ health for sure and sometimes lives,” she added.

“Now we are actually putting the health of the public at risk if we don’t have good enforcement of health standards.”

Some companies, including Amazon and Loblaws, are offering employees a $2 an hour premium for working during the COVID-19 pandemic — measures Block called a “welcome but insufficient response.”

“We have to really look at governments to respond in a longer term manner by increasing minimum wages, easing access to unionization, and increasing both protections and enforcement under minimum employment standards,” she added.

Last week, federal labour minister Filomena Tassi said experts at the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety were drawing up best health and safety practices to share with provincial labour ministries for at-risk workplaces such as trucking and food processing.

Enacting 21 emergency leave days during the pandemic — plus seven permanent paid sick days — is also a critical step at the provincial level, Block said.

Source: Star ExclusiveTheir work is keeping Canada safe. But they earn a fraction of the national average A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows low-wage and racialized workers are overrepresented in jobs deemed essential during COVID-19 pandemic.

Canada’s racial divide: Confronting racism in our own backyard

Interesting long read in the Globe.

Excerpt pertains to data gaps. However, some of the gaps listed do not exist – Census/NHS data on economic outcomes is detailed as are educational outcomes, as is employment equity data in governments. Visible minorities can be broken down by the major groups, and ethnic origin provides more detail (for some of the data, see my Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote Overview Deck (December 2015).

However, the points regarding health and incarceration are valid:

Part of the problem is that it’s hard to figure out, with much precision, what’s going on. Unlike the United States, where race-related data is routinely collected on everything from jobless rates to university-graduation rates, Canada “cannot tell its own story,” says Arjumand Siddiqi, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, who has lived and worked in both countries.

She hit a wall in 2007, when she wanted to test if race-based health inequalities varied in different societies. Most of the research at the time relied on U.S. data.

While working at the University of North Carolina, she began to analyze a joint Canada/U.S. survey of health. When she accessed the data from Canada, however, detail on race was suppressed (for privacy reasons, she was told). All she could glean was information on people who were “white” or “non-white.” She couldn’t determine whether health outcomes within racial groups varied.

“We’re left with a muddy picture. We are left not knowing whether there is a problem that is specific, widespread, changing over time, whether we need to be doing more or less with some groups.”

Health care could use more accurate information. One paper last year that looked at ethnicity and breast cancer noted that data about race or ethnicity “are rarely collected” in a systematic manner in Canada’s health-care settings.

That data deficiency “certainly does not mean that ethnoracial inequalities do not exist in Canada; indeed, lack of data often limits the ability to accurately and adequately identify health inequalities and inequities,” wrote Dr. Aisha Lofters of the University of Toronto.

In Halifax, Dr. Britton, who has four degrees, including a doctorate, has found that a dearth of data on African Nova Scotians has hurt efforts to push for racial equity in the province. “With no data being collected, what does that mean? No funding” to address specific health issues in communities.

Researchers have hit similar roadblocks trying to analyze employment outcomes, incomes or wealth by race.

One missing piece of the puzzle is jobless stats on indigenous reserves, which the government doesn’t collect on a monthly or even yearly basis. Another piece is about wages. A widely reported study released last week in the U.S. – which found the wage gap between white and black Americans is worse today than in 1979 – isn’t currently possible to conduct in Canada, says Sheila Block, senior economist at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

In the justice system, data is lacking on the ethnicity of homicide victims and fatalities from police encounters.

People are often grouped as “visible minorities,” in the justice system. The catch-all term is “problematic,” noted U of T’s Akwasi Owusu-Bempah in a 2011 report entitled Whitewashing Criminal Justice in Canada. Lumping people together “obscures racial differences by averaging groups that are overrepresented with those that are underrepresented.”

The absence of detailed data may be hiding inequalities that, ultimately, harm police effectiveness and hurt community relations, he said.

Source: Canada’s racial divide: Confronting racism in our own backyard – The Globe and Mail