Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to a post earlier this month that promised to provide historical context.
Chief statistician: Why the census is counting visible minorities
It is in everyone’s interest that debate on issues related to employment equity ‘be supported by objective … data rather than by impressions, unfounded opinion or stereotypes.’
Ivan P. Fellegi
The Globe and Mail
Friday, April 26, 1996
This is the text of a letter sent this week to a number of Canadian
newspapers by Ivan Fellegi, chief statistician of Canada, Statistics
Canada, in response to criticisms of Question 19 in the 1996 census. (One
critic, Reform MP Mike Scott of the B.C. riding of Skeena, had suggested
that Canadians identify themselves as Martians to “send a signal to the
federal government that Canadians have had enough of this garbage.”)
Chart 1 Change in hours and wages, Retail trade, Ontario, 1983-2014*
Source(s): CANSIM tables for Survey of Employment Payroll and Hours (SEPH), Statistics Canada. (See Note 6)
Encouraged by recent initiatives in relatively more prosperous US jurisdictions (Seattle and San Francisco), Canadian labour groups, particularly those out west (BC and Alberta), have taken to calling for dramatic minimum wage hikes. These labour groups cite research they interpret to mean that min-wages do not affect (dis)employment, and assert that mandated wage hikes will help address income inequality and/or alleviate poverty. Unfortunately, the min-wage research to date does not support this assertion. That may have more to do with the challenge of distinguishing between min-wage and other effects. Perhaps the best approach is not to try to discern the direct effect of min-wage policy at all, but rather infer it from broader labour market trends.
Chart 1 Share of Canadian population reporting ‘Canadian’ ethnic origin vs share reporting* ‘visible minority’ status, by census year
Source(s): Census of population public-use microdata files (PUMFs), Statistics Canada
The recent Canadian Economics Association (CEA) conference has been criticised for its lack of diversity, as have its precedents. It wasn’t clear at first why one particular economist was singled out for criticism. Apparently it had to do with an article this economist, an older white female, wrote a couple years ago calling for the elimination of “visible minority” status from employment equity and, along with it, the race question altogether from the Canadian census. She argued race is an arbitrary, antiquated and irrelevant concept. That her screed was poorly written and argued is understandable, albeit unfortunate, given it’s not her area of expertise (‘feminomics’). That the same economist is supposedly set to chair the 2017 CEA conference is a legitimate concern.
If American television is anything to go by in the lead up to the 45th Earth Day anniversary (on April 22, 2015), there should be some concern about how many more remain to be celebrated. Given the increasingly unnecessary to downright unhealthy reasons for the continued exploitation of our limited natural resources, there seems little sense to the ever-expanding environmental destruction.
Chart 1 Population and employment estimates and projections 1976-2050
Source(s): Statistics Canada and Finance Canada estimates and projections
As noted in the previous post (see Family Tax Cut), the effect the demographic shift will have on labour supply may be overstated. Its ill-advised use of Kijiji data aside, the Jobs Report published last February by Finance Canada included labour market projections. 2014 was projected to be the last year with employment growth of 1.0 percent or greater, and the binding constraint on future growth was projected to be labour supply. The first projection missed out of the gate, and the limited data available suggests the second may not prove any more reliable.