UNEQUAL ACCESS: A Canadian Profile of Racial Differences in Education, Employment and Income

Report highlights

Good jobs and promotions elude many visible minority and Aboriginal men and women in Canada, according to a report released by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, written by researchers Jean Lock Kunz, Anne Milan, and Sylvain Schetagne of the Canadian Council on Social Development. The report includes information from most recent statistics available, primarily data from the 1996 Census and comments from focus group participants comprised of visible minority and Aboriginal men and women in five cities a c ross Canada.

Bilingual Highlights.pdf   English Full Report.pdf  Français Rapport Complet.pdf

Aboriginals still have low educational attainment

  • The high school non-completion rate is highest among Aboriginal youth, compared to rates among visible minority youth and young people who are neither visible minority nor Aboriginal (non-racialized youth). Aboriginal youth also lagged far behind in their rates of university completion.

Even with a post-secondary education, job opportunities may still be out of reach for Aboriginal peoples. As one Aboriginal participant commented: “When I send out my résumé and I’m totally qualified for the position, they’ll look at the courses I’ve taken (First Nations resources). Maybe that’s why I don’t get the job. ”

Unequal access to employment

  • After accounting for education level, unemployment rate is highest among Aboriginal peoples, followed by foreign - born visible minorities, and Canadian - born visible minorities. For example, among those who are university educated, Aboriginal peoples are four times as likely as Canadian born non-racialized group to be unemployed, and foreign - born visible minorities are at least twice as likely as Canadian born non-racialized group to be unemployed.
  • For recent immigrants, the challenge is to have their credentials recognized. As one focus group participant said: “I have a university degree from Algeria, where there is no CEGEP. When I came to Canada, they subtracted three years from my educational attainment in order to compensate. This makes no sense .
  • Foreign - born visible minorities experience greater discrepancies between their education levels and their occupations, compared to other groups. Less than half of foreign - born visible minorities who have a university education work in jobs with a high skill level.

Good jobs are elusive to minorities

  • In times of economic pro sperity, it is not as difficult to find a job, but it is still difficult for visible minority men and women to find jobs that match their qualifications.
  • The re was consensus among the focus group participants that Aboriginal peoples, members of visible minority groups, and recent immigrants to Canada have more difficulty than others in finding employment. Employment rates for these g roups are lower in all regions of Canada. Visible minority men and women still face “polite” racism when job hunting. One focus group participant said: “I’ve called about jobs and had people say ‘come down for an interv i e w,’ yet when I get there, I get the feeling they are surprised to see that I’m black because I sound like the average guy on the telephone.
  • They’ve said ‘Oh, the job has just been filled,’ or during the interview they’ll say that I’m over qualified or ask me questions like ‘Are you sure you want to work at this type of job?’
  • ”Even when members of minority groups gain access to the labour market, they still have difficulties advancing in their position. As illustrated by one focus group participant: “I had applied for a promotion, but I didn’t get the job. A guy that I had trained (who is white) got the promotion instead.
  • ”Compared to non-racialized groups, members of visible minority groups and Aboriginal peoples are less likely to hold managerial or professional jobs. For those who do obtain hold managerial jobs, more than half are self-employed, compared to only one-third among non-racialized groups .

Higher education yields fewer payoffs for minorities

  • Despite their higher educational attainment compared to non-racialized groups, visible minorities trail behind in terms of their employment and income.
  • Aboriginal peoples and foreign - born visible minorities are over- re p resented in the bottom quintile (or bottom 20%) of the income scale.
  • Given a university education, non-racialized g roups are three times as likely as Aboriginal peoples and about twice as likely as foreign born visible minorities to have incomes in the top 20% of the income scale.Data on earnings revealed that foreign - born visible minorities earned, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar earned by the foreign - born nonracialized group.

Racism – "a hidden thing" in the workplace

  • Focus group participants said that racism is a "hidden thing" in the workplace, and were convinced that they had been the victims of subtle forms of racism. Examples of "subtle discrimination" include being passed over for promotion, assigned unpleasant tasks, being stereotyped, and being excluded from the "inner circle" of the workplace.
  • Several focus group participants observed that the higher up the organizational ladder you look, the lighter the skin colour. "I look around and think – there’s no chance of getting ahead. Of all the people in senior positions, no one is from an ethnic group."

The road ahead

  • Most focus group participants hoped that their children would have a better future than they themselves anticipate having.
  • Employment equity legislation has been more effective in re c ruiting racialized minorities than in their retention and promotion. Legislation may alter the behaviour of employers, but it has less impact on the workplace culture and individual attitudes. Public education is critical in raising awareness of racial inequality in order to eliminate it in the future.
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