Women’s Economic Development Series

Why is the unemployment rate for Black women in Canada twice as high?

Article written by: Elizabeth Narváez

Women entered the workforce quite late; it was not until 1960 that they were allowed into a world that is still dominated by men. It is true that since that time, the workplace has become much more welcoming for women in many aspects; however, it is still lacking mechanisms to combat discrimination and anti-Black racism for women of colour and those racialized. 

The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), in an article about Black women in Canada, stated that “one of the biggest paradoxes of the Canadian labour market is that both men and women who identify as Black have higher labour force participation rates than their non-racialized counterparts” and yet, numbers from Statistics Canada from just six years ago show a 12.2% rate of unemployment for Black women vs. a 6.4% of those that are non-racialized. 

These numbers reflect discrimination and challenges Black women encounter in the labour market just from trying to achieve the same goals as their non-racialized peers. Black women are overrepresented in low-pay and part-time jobs, which leads to slower career advancements and fewer opportunities to compete fairly for better work positions. 

The CCPA study mentions the concerns of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descents mission conducted in Canada about the growing contact of Black women and girls with the criminal justice system and how this negatively affects them, especially since many employers conduct police checks as part of the hiring process. 

All these conditions make harder the already difficult task of finding a suitable job for women who are Black or racialized, “Black women, in particular, are disproportionately entrenched in a cycle of poverty and marginalization that deprives them and their families of the resources necessary to fully participate in Canadian life”

It is not possible to fully include Black women in the labour market without regulated mechanisms that guarantee anti-racist hiring processes and places of work and offer equal growth opportunities for their workers no matter their race. Even though Canada has a reputation for being inclusive with people from different backgrounds, these numbers reflect a different reality. 

Information and education are the pillars of change, and Black women’s voices need to be heard in situations that are not working for them anymore. We need to face the fact that the system has no regulated mechanisms to combat anti-Black racism in workplaces, even from the hiring process. Are the questions about race at the end of an online application for inclusion or is it the exact opposite? How can we be really sure?


The Canadian Encyclopedia 

Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace, “Black women in Canada”, CCPA. 

Statistics Canada, 2016 Census of Population, Catalogue No. 98-400-X2016286.