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What is Employment Equity and why do we need it?
Many groups in Canada have long experienced discrimination or faced barriers in the labour market. First Nations people, newcomers, people of colour, women, and people with disabilities are still falling behind the rest of the population in terms of job selection, training opportunities, promotions, and job retention. For example:
- In 2001, the unemployment rate among adults with disabilities was 10.7% compared with 5.9% of adults without disabilities.
- In 2003, 33% of racialized workers overall and 51% of Black workers experienced racial discrimination. Racialized workers are also most likely to be in low-status jobs. They make up over 40% of workers in the sewing, textile and fabric industries, over 36% of taxi and limo drivers, and 42% of electronics assemblers; yet they make up only 3% of executives, and 1.7% of directors on boards of organizations.
- From 1991 to 2001, the number of young women holding a university degree has risen dramatically from 21% to 34%; however, the employment earnings gap between young women and men has only declined by 2%.
Employment equity is a strategy to ensure that all people have equal opportunities in the labour market and in the workplace. Through employment equity legislation:
- Barriers to employment can be removed
- Transparent hiring policies can be created
- A culture of equity and inclusion in the workplace can be fostered
Employment equity legislation does not mean that unqualified people would be hired to fill job positions or that the government will impose quotas onto employers or penalize them for failing to hire certain people.
Bringing Employment Equity back to Ontario
By the year 2016, approximately two thirds of the Canadian population aged 15-64 will be made up of women, people of colour, Aboriginal people, and persons with disabilities. Although employment equity legislation was enacted in Ontario in 1993, it was repealed by the Conservative Harris government less than two years later. It is time for the Ontario government to bring back employment equity legislation so that disadvantaged groups do not fall further behind in the labour market, and to make certain that our workplaces are equitable, diverse and inclusive for all workers.
This Colour of Poverty factsheet is produced with the support of: CAW-Canada, Labour Education Centre, OPSEU, Social Planning Toronto, United Steel Workers and Urban Alliance on Race Relations.