Workplace Inequity: Canada's Modern Discrimination Problem
This is a free and equal nation, a meritocracy, where we are judged by our actions, not by factors over which we have no control? Bullsh*t. Inequity in the Canadian work force is a thing of the past, we are told. We are taught in school that <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Canada is an equal and fair nation, where age, gender and race do not have an effect your status in the eyes of the law, and that employers are held to high standards to enforce this equality. That is simply not the case.
At this time, the unemployment rates in this nation demonstrate the inequality of hiring practices in this nation. Currently, the unemployment rate among men is 9.4% versus 7% among women; moreover, the duration of unemployment among men is longer than that of women. This information can be found easily by looking at the statistics on the website for the department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, (the Employment Insurance office, if you prefer,) http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp?iid=15. The number of women of working age in this country is higher, true, but this does not effect the percentage of men or women who are unemployed. In an “equal” society, the percentages of both who are working would be equal, for indeed, the workforce would be representative of the population. Clearly, this is not the case in Canada. Yet this is only half the story. While men are less likely to find work, they are also likely to earn more once they have it. In 2009, for example, the government states that the average weekly earnings of a man are about $250 more than for a woman. More women are working, and as a result, the disparity between the top and bottom income brackets is likely larger. Yet, again, if things were equal, those lower paying jobs, as well as those paying more, should be more equally split. As a result, the overall rates of pay should be almost equal. They are not. Why, if Canada enshrines gender equality in our charter of rights and freedoms, are there fewer men able to find a job, and fewer women earning a fair income?
The disparity in the percentage of youth to seniors currently unable to find gainful employment is also a telling factor. According to the same site, the unemployment rate is 15.3% for youth, aged 14-24, but only 4.3% for workers over the age of 65. While it is true that within this age bracket, many are still pursuing their education, there is a larger issue which goes unaddressed. The breakdown of ages on the site is age 15-24, 25-54, 54-64 and 65+, however this breakdown shows the failure of government, and Canadian society as a whole, to recognise the difference between someone age 25 and 55. Ask any recent university graduate how easy it is to find a job right out of school, and you will see the problem with this breakdown. The government ignores those under age 30 because they rarely vote. They rarely vote, because the government ignores them. Yet they are the future of the nation; a fact that is ignored by many who are already employed and established in life. The recent university graduate is faced with record levels of debt. Gone are the days when a summer of employment could cover the costs of going to school full time from September through June. Even working full time, while attending full time classes, the jobs available to not pay enough to cover the cost of living and going to school full time. After leaving school, the assumption is that these graduates will find a higher paying job, and start a career. The reality is quite different; most employers will not hire these graduates, as their education does not count towards the 3-5 years of on the job training that is expected for a perspective applicant. So we apply for a lower level position, to gain the experience. The response, “you are over-qualified for this position, and will likely find a higher level job, so it is not worth our effort to hire and train you.” As a result, in spite of huge debt, many recent graduates continue working for the minimum wage jobs they had while going to school. The main concern seems to be, when you get down to it, not that these recent graduates do not have enough on the job experience, but they are too young, ambitious, and open to change. Their age is held against them by an autocracy who fears them. This is not a sign of equality. Age discrimination is against the charter of rights, illegal in Canada, yet it persists. Strike two for equal rights, regardless of age, gender, or race.
The most disturbing set-back to equal rights comes when we check the statistics on unemployment among visible minorities. While it is true that many new immigrants face challenges entering the work force based on language barriers, not all visible minorities are new immigrants. The rate of unemployment among First Nations is 14.8%, according to the department that handles Employment Insurance. This is nearly twice the national rate. And yet, these men and women, born and raised in Canada, are not strangers to our two official languages. Yet new immigrants, who often do not have the same level of language skills, have an unemployment rate of only 12.3%. Why, then, are Canadian citizens of a specific ethnic group so much less likely to find work than, for example, a person on a work visa, or a new immigrant? And that being the case, is it any wonder that the number of First Nations who face drug and alcohol addiction, or end up in correctional facilities is so much higher? I have heard many excuses for this, in an attempt to deny guilt or complacency in the perpetuation of these facts. True, many First Nations live in small, isolated communities. Many are poor. Many do not have the same level of access to education. But these facts are further proof of the problem, the effects, rather than the causes, of the status quo. When faced with poverty, limited employment opportunities, and stereo-types or stigmas over addiction issues, is it any wonder that so many youths in these communities see no alternative but to turn to crime, and live out the mantle hung upon them, and fulfil the image already set of them by outside society? It is a self fulfilling prophesy, laden with discrimination and bias.
The simple fact of the matter is, looking at the government’s own statistics regarding the rate of unemployment in Canada; discrimination is still a very real issue. I chose to focus on the statistics put forward by the government for a variety of reasons. The first, and most important, being that it is the government who are responsible, as the legislators, to ensure that such things are not happening here in this country. Clearly there is an issue, and many Canadian citizens are having their rights trampled on, for a variety of reasons. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure these issues are rectified. But, equally as important, these figures from last year are the government’s own tabulation, albeit a public version. As such, it is unlikely that they will be biased by any one special interest group, Misogynists United complaining that women are preventing their ability to find employment, or the Federation of Angry Feminists trying to demonstrate that men still have more rights than women. Rather, if skewed, it is only by the fact that they are meant to minimize the opportunity for such groups to find fault. In other words, if these figures ARE inaccurate, it is because the actual figures are more shocking. These figures demonstrate clearly that race, gender, and age all have a serious effect on one’s ability to find gainful employment.
Thus, it is clear that there is a problem, a serious problem, with the labour standards in Canada, and the enforcement of our so called “equal rights.” Such practices as affirmative action measures, where women, or new immigrants, are given a leg up in the hiring process are no longer demonstrably necessary. Indeed they are counter productive. What is needed now is true, merit based hiring. A young First Nations man should have just as much opportunity to find a job as a middle-aged white woman. That middle aged white woman should also be entitled to the same rate of pay as her male coworkers; equal pay for equal work. These things are enshrined in out legal code, so why are they such foreign concepts? It is time for a change.
Most Recommended Comment
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada