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

Teresa Hedley and a copy of her book, “What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism.” Photo supplied
Comox Library recognizes Autism Awareness Month with presentation by local author

April is World Autism Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to increase understanding… Continue reading

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

Comox council will further look at a troublesome traffic area in the Point Holmes area of the town. Photo submitted
Comox council to look at speed calming measures at Point Holmes

“…We are waiting for a problem to happen if we don’t act.”

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
19 Wing Comox crew involved in three-tonne cocaine seizure worth more than $293 million

12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron involved in Op Caribbe

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as executive vp academic and chief operating officer. Photo supplied
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

North Island College’s new president, Lisa Domae, kicked off her first official… Continue reading

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

Most Read