By Fernando Arce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Chinese-Canadian frontline workers are largely employed in low-wage and high-risk sectors and work long hours, which increases their vulnerability to health risks due to the pandemic and socio-economic exploitation and marginalization, a new report has found.

The Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO) released the 53-page report on Sept. 1 as a way to reflect “demands for more progressive and robust policy changes that prioritize increasing resources and protections for workers.” Its findings are based on 295 survey results from workers and community members as well as 11 in-depth community-led interviews that ran from January to March of this year. 

“Asian Canadians face the parallel pandemic of confronting the virus of COVID-19 and the virus of racism,” Kennes Lin, CCNCTO’s co-chair, said in a virtual press conference. “We have seen a disturbing skyrocket increase in the number of hate crimes, racist attacks, stigmatization and acts of discrimination on Chinese Canadians and Asian Canadians.” The organization is working with other Asian-Canadian groups to make anti-Asian racism an election issue. 

She said the report is intended to document and highlight the “systemic and structural level of covert racism that is experienced by many marginalized Chinese Canadian low-wage essential frontline workers.”

According to the report, “(f)actors such as immigration status, gender, age, low wages, unsafe work conditions, and lack of access to health care and income support impacted frontline workers in a myriad of ways and increased their vulnerability to health risks and socio-economic marginalization.” Most of the workers surveyed were employed as personal support workers, in restaurants, grocery stores and factories.

Among the findings are that 80.4 per cent of frontline workers surveyed reported not receiving a pandemic pay increase; 75.6 per cent reported loss of income during the pandemic; and 54.5 per cent said their wages are too low. It also found that 69.4 per cent of frontline workers are not unionized, and 70 per cent felt powerless to improve their working conditions.

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