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Unemployed Indigenous workers disproportionately suffering from COVID-19 economy compared to non-Indigenous

Click to play video 'Unemployed Indigenous workers disproportionately suffering from COVID-19 economy compared to non-Indigenous' Unemployed Indigenous workers disproportionately suffering from COVID-19 economy compared to non-Indigenous
WATCH: The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed hurdles faced by Indigenous Canadians to earn a living – Nov 3, 2020

A new report from Statistics Canada shows unemployed Indigenous people are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting job losses from businesses being forced to close.

Figures from December 2019 to February 2020 show the Indigenous unemployment rate at 10 per cent while it was just 5.5 per cent for non-Indigenous people.

That jumped more than six percentage points for both groups between February and May.

Indigenous unemployment shot up to 16.6 per cent while non-Indigenous sat at 11.7 per cent.

When businesses started to reopen across the country, unemployment fell for non-Indigenous groups between May and August to 11.2 per cent but rose for Indigenous people to 16.8 per cent.

Read more: Canada’s unemployment rate reaches record 13.7%

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The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) feels as if Ottawa ignored their concerns, especially a $9-billion funding request at the start of the pandemic only offering a fraction of that.

“When they were announcing COVID-19 relief funds for reopening the economy and things like that, we First Nations were at the bottom of the barrel,” Chief Bobby Cameron told Global News, adding he thought the federal government failed First Nations.

Read more: StatCan August data reveals unemployment rate higher among visible minorities

Kelly Foley, a University of Saskatchewan economics professor, said disadvantaged people in the labour market disproportionately suffer in this kind of economic climate.

“I do believe they come from a lot of the same structural barriers that were preventing Indigenous people from finding employment even before the pandemic occurred,” Foley said.

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She added those hurdles include education levels, living in remote parts of the country and discrimination.

Read more: Indigenous people especially ‘vulnerable’ to coronavirus pandemic, WHO warns

Cameron said all stakeholders, including the government, business community and Indigenous leaders, need to be involved in order to address the higher unemployment rates.

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