Foreign policy Immigration

What’s missing from discussion of refugee crisis out of Syria? Context of long-running refugee crisis within Syria

 Chart 1 Iraqi refugees in Syria
Chart 1 Iraqi refugees in Syria
Chart 2 Displaced persons in Syria
Chart 2 Displaced persons in Syria
Chart 3 Displaced persons in Iraq
Chart 3 Displaced persons in Iraq

Source(s): Population Statistics, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

If something seems missing from most Western media coverage of the current Syria refugee crisis, it would be the origin of said crisis. A significant share of Syria’s population were already refugees fleeing other Middle East (ME) crises prior to the outbreak of violence in 2011. And all those crises, along with the current one in Syria, bear a striking similarity: Many of the same Western countries now voicing concern over the humanitarian crisis spilling onto their shores were complicit in propagating and perpetuating the ME conflicts giving rise to the crisis.

Employment Immigration Media Population Race and ethnicity

Why misleading, misinformed screeds calling for the elimination of race-based stats ought to be retired

Chart 1 Share of Canadian population reporting ‘Canadian’ ethnic origin vs share reporting* ‘visible minority’ status, by census year
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.

Employment Financial security Governance Immigration Justice Race and ethnicity

Why Canada avoids asking about race, and why that’s a problem

Making waves in his first speech after taking office in 2009, outgoing US Attorney General Eric Holder then described his country as a “nation of cowards” afraid to confront racial issues. While the US had made remarkable progress on civil rights in the latter half of the twentieth century, election of a biracial president aside, there’s evidence to suggest it has recently regressed. There are anecdotes, like recent incidents in Detroit, Michigan and Ferguson, Missouri. But there are also race-based statistics collected, compiled and published by various US government agencies, from Justice to Labor to even the Federal Reserve.

If fear of confronting race is cowardice, what does one call fear of even asking about it? Because that’s where Canada is at the moment.

Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity

August 2014 LFS: An alternative view. More on the R word and unions, illustrated

Chart 1 Unemployment by visible minority status and place of birth

Source: Census of Population, 2006 [Canada] Public Use Microdata File, Individual File: Canada. 2.7% sample, Statistics Canada

We’ll get to the chart in a sec. The August 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release this morning reported a 97,800 actual (payroll) job loss, and a corresponding 86,900 (obviously questionable) self-employment jump. We can’t think of anything more to add, so self-employment blah, blah, blah, blah.

Union ‘research’ underscores diversity problem

A couple days ago, we followed up on an interesting critique of the labour movement’s glaring diversity deficit. Apparently the critique may have been written in response to an episode that saw mostly white union supporters (mis)appropriating a comment by Martin Luther King, Jr. against ‘right to work’ laws.

That MLK comment was made at a time when the US labour movement held great promise for and common cause with the civil rights movement; it was the same year Cesar Chavez set off to organize California’s (and eventually the nation’s) poor, mostly minority farm labourers.

MLK likely didn’t envision half a century on that a wholly unqualified ‘research associate’ (RA) with a predominantly white, supposedly progressive, pro-union think tank condescendingly dismissing a black woman’s concern over Canadian Labour’s apparent lack of diversity as “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”…

… then proceeding to immediately validate her concern by blurting out “immigrants have higher union density rates than white Cdns”. Because clearly, as the recycled chart illustrates, all Canadian immigrants participating in the labour force are non-white – give or take 43%.

RA then went on to cite a 2000 research draft, to presumably enlighten his misguided critic — a paper he clearly didn’t read himself.

Nor is it likely he made it past the first sentence of the critique he found “overly simplistic and lacking nuance”. The short piece contains no less than 17 references to “(visible / racial) minorities”. Its references to immigrants are likewise to minority immigrants… however, seeing as RA is oblivious to the existence of non-minority immigrants, that ‘nuance’ was lost on him.

It’s also worth noting the critique RA callously dismissed actually references (with a corresponding link) the final (2004) version of the draft paper he’d shared – it’s even highlighted in a text box.  So effectively, he didn’t read that paper twice over. Otherwise he’d have realised the research he’d cited was also critical of labour’s lack of diversity.

It’s all a bit much, even for a hack playing twitter-conomist. But this is someone entrusted by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives to help its readers get Behind the Numbers. To be blunt, any org that puts such an individual, even on a volunteer basis, in such a position has credibility issues. We’ll just leave it at that.

Aside: It’s worth mentioning the referenced paper(s) use data on race/ethnicity from a voluntary, relatively small sample survey (SLID); the authors make clear their results are far from reliable and suggest unions consider collecting their own data. As noted, they don’t.

So as not to just criticise, a couple of points:

As touched on previously, Europe has a much longer history with organised labour, and large European employers such as Volkswagen prefer the administrative convenience of ‘works councils’.

Canada’s white, mostly European immigrants have a significantly higher rate of union coverage than the Canadian-born, balancing out the significantly lower union coverage rate among racial minority, mostly Asian and African immigrants.

The balance of immigration has significantly tipped to non-European source countries over the last 30 years. Meaning most of the white, European immigrants who are still active in the labour force will tend to be older, age 55-65, if not 65+.

The preceding post notes older Canadian workers are doing far better both in terms of employment and union coverage, even in decimated industries like Manufacturing. It’s pretty easy to put two and two together from there.

A labour movement that doesn’t represent the young, racial minorities and recent immigrants is one without a future. It’ll take more to turn its fortunes around than throwing up pictures of young, racial minorities or making empty promises to young workers.  Unfortunately, as our ‘progressive’ RA helped illustrate, the movement’s prospects are pretty dim.

Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity Trade and investment Women Youth

How the labour movement has failed minorities in Canada

How the labour movement has failed
Rachel Decoste, Huffington Post Canada September 2, 2014

Kudos to Rachel for her thoughtful and informative critique of the Canadian labour movement’s historical under-representation of racial minorities. It’s actually more cleverly written than it first appears (and it’s pretty clever as-is); the embedded web links make some interesting implicit connections.

Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity

Where is the ‘Union Advantage’ for Canadian immigrants, racial minorities?

These numbers will blow your mind and make you want to join a union
PressProgress (Broadbent Institute) August 18, 2014

A reader flagged this recent PressProgress post. It references data presumably from a recent Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) ‘report’, which the post is intended to promote. The data was obviously sourced from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS), which collects basic info on respondents’ immigration status, but not race / ethnicity. While the post mentions hourly wage differences for total and recent immigrants covered by collective agreements (but not necessarily union members), it doesn’t mention their respective coverage rates – although it does so for young workers (15%). Perhaps it was an oversight,..

Employment Immigration

April 2014 LFS: An alternative view. 100-month anniversary, plus sample distrbution data


Break out the party hats and kazoos, Canada. As suggested last month, the April 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release marks the 100-month anniversary of the survey collecting data on but not mentioning immigrant labour market outcomes in the monthly report.

Justifiably, many readers are still surprised to learn the LFS even collects data on immigrants’ labour market outcomes. Neither Statistics Canada’s official monthly releases nor Canadian Labour groups’ respective ‘analysis’ ever mention immigrants (but don’t get the latter started on temporary foreign workers…). That said, the immigrant labour market data collected is unreliable, broader LFS sampling methodology contributing to / exacerbating the problem.

Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity

March 2014 LFS: An alternative view. The R word, illustrated (updated April 25, 2014)

Chart 1a Unemployment by immigration and visible minority statusImm_VM_unemp_2006

Source: Census of Population, 2006 [Canada] Public Use Microdata File, Individual File: Canada. 2.7% sample, Statistics Canada

The March 2014 Labour Force Survey (LFS) release reported a rare increase in employment greater than the error term; unlike recent months, that change wasn’t attributable to self-employment, either. Rather, it was part-time, public sector employment. Despite the less-than-encouraging news, Canadian stocks rallied, underscoring the disconnect between capital market and real economy.

Now on to the months-long tradition of ignoring the monthly numbers and discussing broader trends and issues. This month, it’s the R word.

Employment Immigration Race and ethnicity

How not to calculate labour underutilisation: Make it complex and difficult to understand


Didn’t anticipate writing anything further on the topic, as it’s been covered numerous times on these pages already,..

Readers may recall a post last summer comparing the Canadian and U.S. unemployment and labour underutilisation measures. It was shared with the Canadian Labour Congress, and followed up with an Economy Lab post co-authored with one of its economists.

Which made reading this on the Progressive Economics Forum (and a related CLC ‘report‘) all the more disappointing. Apparently someone forgot what they seemingly co-wrote, about why the US measure was more widely reported and discussed than its Canadian counterpart:

The BLS (US Bureau of Labour Statistics) U-6 is easy to calculate and understand; Statscan’s R8 is more obscure and harder to replicate.

Governance Homelessness Housing Immigration Justice Media Transparency Youth

Census 2011: Prison population rose 17.3% as population in shelters rose by only 2.8% (updated 25/09/2012)

With the release today of its 2011 Census families and living arrangements report, media, and doubtless reader, attention was likely diverted by the news that Statistics Canada had mistakenly counted same-sex roommates as gay couples.  What did not receive much attention today was the  2011 Census collective dwelling type release.  The release figures indicated a rise in the prison population of 17.3% as the population in shelters rose by only 2.8% (relative to the figures provided in the 2006 Census collective dwelling type release).  Yet between 2006 and 2011, crime decreased dramatically and the country went through a severe economic downturn.  Given these facts, the opposite outcome would have been anticipated.