Elisa Cardona, who was laid off from her job at Pacific Gateway Hotel, poses for a photograph outside the hotel in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Elisa Cardona, who was laid off from her job at Pacific Gateway Hotel, poses for a photograph outside the hotel in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Women, immigrants bearing the brunt of economic toll from pandemic: Report

‘I’m on the verge of going homeless if things continue this way’

For the last seven years, Elisa Cardona has worked as a hostess at the Pacific Gateway Hotel near Vancouver, greeting guests at the breakfast restaurant and helping servers when needed. With the job, Cardona, a single mother who immigrated to Canada from Mexico nearly two decades ago, had been able to afford a comfortable lifestyle for her and her two children.

But when the pandemic struck last March, she and the hotel’s other employees, many of whom are women and immigrants, were laid off. With a lack of travel weighing down bookings, the hotel has refused to commit to bringing its workforce back, leaving workers like Cardona to fend for themselves with no end in sight.

“I’m on the verge of going homeless if things continue this way,” Cardona said. “Even if I had enough savings, I’m looking at a long way to get back to work.”

Canada’s tourism industry has been devastated by the pandemic, with a full recovery not expected for at least several years. But COVID-19 has taken an especially difficult toll on women, immigrants and youth, who make up an outsized share of the tourism industry, according to a report released Monday by Destination Canada, a Crown corporation that promotes domestic tourism.

The report highlights the pandemic’s toll not only on a particular sector of the economy, which shed 500,000 jobs in 2020, but also its disproportionate impact on the economic well-being of certain communities.

For example, immigrants comprise 26 per cent of Canada’s tourism workforce, compared with 23.8 per cent of the total labour force, the report says. In addition, more than 30 per cent of the jobs in tourism are held by Canadians aged 15 to 24, compared with 12.7 per cent of the total workforce, it says.

In travel services, the business sector most impacted by COVID-19, women make up 70.7 per cent of the workforce, the report says. Women employed in accommodation and food and beverage services, two other sectors within tourism, comprise 60.3 per cent and 57.7 per cent of total employees in those areas, respectively.

In response to the layoffs at their hotels, Cardona and other workers in British Columbia launched a campaign this week called “Unequal Women,” an effort to help women employed in the hotel industry keep their jobs. The campaign, which is led by Unite Here Local 40, the hotel and hospitality workers’ union, says the hotels have permanently laid off workers even as they anticipate an eventual recovery.

The job losses in the tourism industry, if sustained for long periods of time, could lead to further economic struggles for laid-off workers. In particular, women and any other group that is experiencing prolonged bouts of joblessness may find it more difficult to re-enter the workforce once the economy picks up again, said Dawn Desjardins, vice president and deputy chief economist at RBC.

“The longer you remain unemployed, the more risks are generated with respect to an erosion of your skills,” Desjardins said. “The networks you set up when you are working, those networks also erode.”

In a report co-authored by Desjardins, RBC found that women have been disproportionately affected by job losses since the start of the pandemic, echoing Destination Canada’s findings. Almost 100,000 women aged 20 and up have exited the labour market entirely, compared with fewer than 10,000 men, says the report, which was released this month.

Meanwhile, the tourism industry faces a long road to recovery. Eve Pare, president and chief executive officer of the Hotel Association of Greater Montreal, said she isn’t expecting a meaningful rebound in hotel bookings before 2022.

At the start of the pandemic, her organization’s members were forced to lay off about 90 per cent of their staff, many of whom are youth, women and immigrants. But when business finally picks up again, she is worried that the industry may struggle to find workers, as laid-off employees are forced to seek work elsewhere during the pandemic.

“We were in a labour shortage before,” Pare said. “Are they going to come back? I’m not quite sure.”

Jon Victor, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Alberta joins Ontario in lowering minimum age for AstraZeneca vaccine

More than 700,000 doses of AstraZeneca have been administered in this country

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,516 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

Central zone has 1,849 active cases

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

A vial of some of the first 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada secured. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio
Canada’s 2nd blood clot confirmed in Alberta after AstraZeneca vaccine

The male patient, who is in his 60s, is said to be recovering

The funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip in Windsor, England, on Saturday, April 17, 2021. Philip died April 9 at the age of 99. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip laid to rest Saturday as sombre queen sits alone

The entire royal procession and funeral took place out of public view within the grounds of Windsor Castle

Most Read