A report released March 17 by Islamic Relief Canada (IRC) titled, One Year Later – Unmasking COVID-19, concludes that the pandemic threatens to worsen economic inequality and further marginalize vulnerable groups. The report provides an in-depth examination of the impact of the pandemic and offers important policy recommendations. It reveals that lockdowns and closures of non-essential services to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 are devastating economies and the economic well-being of many. Emergency income supports offered by governments have cushioned the impact but are driving up public debt.
The report is authored by York Sociology PhD student Grace Barakat, under the supervision of Brenda Spotton Visano, University professor at the School of Public Policy and Administration and economics professor in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.
It finds that as economies reopen, questions of who will bear the burden of this crisis and how this will impact economic inequality arise. The report offers an analysis of emerging evidence that suggests that marginalized communities, especially Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), women and low-income people have been hit the hardest by the pandemic. Not only have they incurred higher percentages of illness, they have also experienced the most job losses and economic hardships.
Reyhana Patel, head of communications and government relations for IRC, cites the report in her op ed for CBC titled, “Women struggling due to pandemic need meaningful support to help get back on their feet.” Patel writes: “Despite the fact that more than 80 per cent of jobs have been recovered since the start of the pandemic, a high proportion of women — in particular, members of visible minorities — have not gone back to work, citing a variety of reasons that include things such as lack of child care. The new report notes that based on the most recent demographic statistics available, as of November 2020, Black women had one of the highest unemployment rates at 13 per cent, while the rate is 17 per cent for Indigenous women. That compares to an average national unemployment rate of 8.5 per cent for the same period, according to Statistics Canada.”
IRC, Canada’s largest Muslim charity and relief agency with more than 100 offices around the world, provided funding to support Barakat’s research, which was more than matched by the Government of Ontario’s MITACs Accelerate program. The MITACs Accelerate program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to apply their skills in a non-academic environment and broaden their professional network.