The Role of Race and Gender in Ontario's Racialized Income Gap

A previous study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives shows the income gap between the rich and the rest of Ontario families has gotten worse, not better, over the past generation. This study looks at 2006 census data to describe the labour market experience of racialized Ontarians. It relies on Census data for Ontarians who self-describe as ‘visible minority,’ since Census terminology has not been updated to reflect the concept of racialization. The Census findings show a striking difference between racialized and non-racialized Ontarians. Racialized Ontarians are far more likely to live in poverty, to face barriers to Ontario’s workplaces, and even when they get a job, they are more likely to earn less than the rest of Ontarians. Among the core findings: Racialized Ontarians want work but have trouble finding it: While a larger share of racialized workers in Ontario were looking for work, fewer of them found jobs compared to the rest of Ontarians. Higher unemployment rates cut across the majority of racialized groups, accounting for 90 per cent of the racialized population. In 2005, long before the Great Recession wreaked havoc on Canada’s employment scene, the unemployment rate for racialized workers in Ontario was high — 8.7 per cent — compared to the 5.8 unemployment rate for the rest of Ontarians. Racialized Ontarians are paid less: Sexism and racial discrimination pack a double wallop for racialized women in Ontario, seriously hampering their earnings. They made 53.4 cents for every dollar non-racialized men made in 2005. Racialized men in Ontario made 73.6 cents for every dollar than non-racialized men made. Racialized women made 84.7 cents for every dollar that non-racialized women made. Controlling for age, immigration status, and education doesn’t eliminate the gap: First-generation racialized Ontarians aged 25–44 who have a university education earn less than non-racialized immigrants of the same age and educational attainment. The gap is widest for first-generation immigrants: racialized women make 47 cents for every dollar male, non-racialized immigrants make. For second-generation that gap persists at 54 cents. These labour market experiences result in much higher poverty rates for racialized Ontarians: While 6 per cent of non-racialized families lived in poverty in 2005, more than three times the share of racialized families, 18.7 per cent, lived in poverty. The findings show the employment and earnings gap between racialized Ontarians and the rest of the population remains stubbornly high — despite strong economic performance that Ontario enjoyed when this Census data was collected. It points to an overwhelming need for government to step in with policies to help break down racial and gender barriers in Ontario’s labour market.

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