Published: April 30, 2020

The Life Course Centre is leveraging our global network of research leaders to provide international perspectives on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on social and economic disadvantage.

Here, our Partner Investigator Professor Miles Corak explores what COVID-19 reveals about inequality in Canada. Miles is a Professor of Economics with The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and a Senior Scholar at the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality. He is an expert on the relationship between social mobility and inequality, and the meaning and measurement of equality of opportunity, in Canada and other countries.

In April, Miles published a post to his website titled ‘COVID-19 is not the great leveller, it’s the great revealer’ in which he examines Statistics Canada labour force survey data on the country’s shutdown economy. It shows that more than one million jobs were lost as social distancing and mandated work shutdowns took force in Canada. A further two million people saw their hours of work fall dramatically, implying that over three million Canadians were directly impacted.

Miles says Statistics Canada’s look into the socially distanced economy reveals “longstanding inequalities” that have been growing wider and wider for decades. He says a “great revealer” has now arrived in the form of a virus, with its economic fallout showing almost perfectly the divides between those who are vulnerable and those who are not. His post highlights dramatic differences in the Statistics Canada data. In particular, the employment change among managers and those working in professional, scientific, or technical jobs was “decimal point dust,” but 300,000 people working in accommodation and food services lost work, a fall that wiped out 20 years of growth. He describes the foot soldiers in this first economic battle against COVID-19 as the young and women, those who work in part-time and temporary jobs with no union contracts and lower wages, students and those who were already unemployed, and the many who confront risks that repeat over and over again during the course of their lives leading to lower and more precarious incomes, less stable and lower quality housing, and families that are less secure.

Source: derived by the author using Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey, March 2020.

“Inequality has been robbing many Canadians of security, prosperity, and dignity for decades. That is what COVID-19 reveals. No, we don’t just have an adjustment problem; we have – as we have long had – an inequality problem.”

You can read the full post, ‘COVID-19 is not the great leveller, it’s the great revealer’, on Miles’ website here.

It also appeared as an OpEd in The Toronto Star here.