Concordia student forced to leave Canada after losing hours at his workplace
Quebec’s economy is gradually recovering from the damage brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the most recent Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, the province had 77,000 more people employed in September than in August.
Canada’s unemployment rate was 9.0 per cent in September, dropping by 1.2 percentage points since August. A similar situation is happening in Quebec, where the unemployment rate fell from 8.7 to 7.4 per cent over the same time period.
Despite a gradual improvement, young people still feel the impact of mass layoffs during the pandemic, more so than any other age group. Quebec youth aged 15 to 24 had a 13.1 per cent unemployment rate in September, compared to just 6.8 per cent in February before the spread of COVID-19.
José Morales, an Industrial Engineering student at Concordia University, has personally felt the effect of unemployment caused by the pandemic. In the summer of 2020, he was working full-time at the Foamextra factory, which manufactures polyurethane foam products. In September, however, his employment situation took a turn for the worse.
“The factory didn’t need me as a full-time worker anymore, so they cut my hours to a bare minimum. They’re concerned about health risks as we enter the second wave — and that’s understandable — but I really needed those hours,” said Morales.
The engineering student could not find a job in the restaurant industry either, as all dining rooms remain closed in Montreal amid the current red zone restrictions. His only other option was to book a flight home to El Salvador.
Morales explained, “I had to leave the country since I couldn’t support myself anymore. Barely working part-time at the factory wouldn’t cover for my living costs, let alone my tuition fees. It’s unfortunate how much uncertainty the pandemic has added to the Canadian job market.”
In fact, young people are particularly vulnerable to pandemic-related restrictions because of their role in the job market. According to the Youth Employment in Canada government report in 2016, 33.7 per cent of workers aged 15 to 29 were working in retail, hospitality, and food service sectors, compared to just to 13.4 per cent of workers aged 30 and over.
Therefore, it has been particularly difficult for younger employees to find employment during the past few months, as Quebec’s shops, restaurants, and bars started to close or operate at limited capacity.
Meanwhile, the province’s educational services industry witnessed encouraging results in September. That month, it had 23,900 more workers employed compared to August, representing the highest increase out of all the industries in Quebec.
This growth was partly driven by the return of students to school classrooms at the start of the new academic year. Unlike universities and CEGEPs, elementary and secondary schools are largely staying open in Quebec. As a result, higher staffing levels are required to support in-person instruction.
Overall, the province’s unemployment rate is gradually returning to its pre-pandemic levels, showing signs of recovery following a record-high rate of 17 per cent in March. However, the impact of COVID-19 on Canada’s unemployment is still far from over, especially for university students.
Graphic by @the.beta.lab