Invisible Women: Are precarious jobs a sign of discriminatory treatment?

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Written by Yohani M., Volunteer Writer/Editor for Access Alliance

On March 20th, Access Alliance held the launch of a new report, “Like Wonder Women, Goddesses, and Robots,” which examines the social, occupational and labour market barriers that racialized immigrant women face in Canada. The report, a community-based research project, summarizes key findings and case studies of immigrant women stuck indefinitely in precarious employment. In the majority of cases, the participants were highly skilled, well qualified, and had left behind ambitious careers in their homelands for the promise of a better life. The reality—from the point of immigration—was far from it. Overworked and underpaid in temp, informal or contract work, and swept under the rug from public discourse, their stories bear likeness to one another in the grim consequences; social alienation, insomnia, depression. What the report identifies as the heart of the problem is the “institutionalization of racialized gendering of employment.” So what does this mean?

It means that immigrant women of ethnic minority groups have become widely associated with minimum wage low-skilled jobs. This in turn fuels the discriminatory assumption that they will readily absorb the rise of precarious employment, cushioning the rest of society by taking on work viewed as undesirable by racially dominant groups—babysitting, factory work, fast food services—work once associated with high-schoolers saving up for college has become an unquestioned and normalized view of racialized immigrant women. Despite their rapid swell in the population—over 60 percent of all women in Canada are immigrants, and 3.2 million nation-wide—the consistent lack of voice in labour market issues and policy-making has contributed to marginalizing them. Compared to their male counterparts, who often shed responsibility when it comes to running a household and child-raising, women often struggle alone.

The participants in the report identified three key barriers to stable employment: non-recognition of foreign qualifications, race-based discrimination, and limited access to professional networks. With such powerful structural barriers, it would take major adjustments on a social, occupational and governmental level to correct the system. In an equitable society, a highly skilled, experienced and qualified immigrant would have equal opportunity in career advancement to a local, irrespective of gender, race, or the name printed at the fore of a résumé. Having made huge sacrifices in the migratory process, no person should be cheated out of their dreams, especially those with abilities beyond Wonder-woman, goddesses, and robots.

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” – Diane Mariechild
Follow this link for the key findings and to download the full report

More about the project: Job-Skills Mismatch Among Racialized Immigrant Women

Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) 

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