British Columbia

Over 40% of Filipino Canadians responding to StatsCan survey report job losses amid COVID-19

RJ Aquino, a director of Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society in Vancouver, says local Filipino Canadians face the challenge of living in an expensive city while making sure enough money is being sent to their families in the Philippines.

Other ethnic groups also suffered disproportionate job losses, survey says

Many Filipino Canadians are essential workers and thus disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, says Tulayan director RJ Aquino reflecting on Statistics Canada's latest report on the economic impact of COVID-19 on visible minority groups. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The Filipino community is more likely than most visible minority groups in Canada to experience economic hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic. For those members of the community who are living in Metro Vancouver, they often have to manage the high cost of living in the area while taking care of the financial well-being of their loved ones back in the Philippines.

Over 42 per cent of Filipino Canadians and 47 per cent of West Asians who completed Statistics Canada's online questionnaire from May 26 to June 8 reported job losses and reduced work hours.

This is some of the crowdsourcing data collected from more than 36,000 Canadians presented in StatsCan's latest report. The agency noted the data is not based on random sampling, and therefore the findings should not be interpreted as reflective of the overall population.

Although, the reported job losses were most significant among Filipinos and West Asians, other groups surveyed by Statistics Canada reported steep losses as well.

StatsCan report shows percentage in affected groups of those surveyed that experienced job losses. (Statistic Canada)

Support themselves and their families back home

RJ Aquino, a director of the Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society in Vancouver, said unemployment and underemployment affect not only Filipino Canadians themselves, but also their families who rely on the money being sent from Canada. 

"There's a temporary foreign worker program that brings in a lot of Filipino workers here. And it's not only do they have to support themselves here ... but to also ensure that they're still able to send the necessary funds back to the Philippines to support their families," he said to Gloria Macarenko, the host of CBC's On The Coast.

RJ Aquino wants more race-based data to be collected for policy-making. (Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society)

Aquino said Filipinos are particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of COVID-19 because they're "over represented" in many essential industries that drastically cut temporary workers' hours, such as hospitality, retail, restaurant and food processing. 

Data and stories make good public policy

The community leader said he would like to see more race-based data being collected that can tell in which industries Filipino workers are impacted, and the reasons why they experience financial challenges. But he also said that sound policy-making is not just about comprehensive gathering of actionable information.

"Listening to people's stories," said Aquino, and he applauded the City of Vancouver for partnering with Tulayan to convene the Filipino online town hall back in May. "It was a great way for city officials to engage with the community."

The Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society is a community group based in Vancouver, which directors and major volunteers include, from left to right, Maureen Mendoza, JL Luna, Sammie Jo Rumbaua, Isabel Fortuna, and Marjorie Eda. (Tulayan Filipino Diaspora Society)

But Aquino also said this kind of long-form engagement was "long overdue" and the three levels of governments could have done more of that. 

"It's an opportunity for us to work together, to hear not just from the Filipino community, but from other sectors and other communities in the city, in the province and the country, to be able to contribute to what this life post-COVID can and should look like." 

With files from On The Coast

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