Online Program

Disparities in occupational exposures among Chinese and white workers in Toronto, Canada

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stephanie Premji, PhD, School of labour studies / Department of health, aging & society, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Wayne Lewchuk, PhD, School of labour studies / Department of economics, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
Background and objective. Little is known about social disparities in health and safety in Canada. At the same time, the existing research has focused on immigrants or ethnic minorities as groups and on traditional occupational exposures, namely those relating to the work environment. Our study sought to evaluate disparities in hazardous employment characteristics – non-standard employment, income insecurity, job instability, lack of employment protection – and physical and psychosocial working conditions among a sample of Chinese and white workers in Toronto. Individuals of Chinese origin represent the largest non-European ethnic group in Canada. Methods. We used self-administered questionnaire data from a 2005/06 population-based survey (n=1611). Using modified Poisson regression, we examined the likelihood for Chinese workers of experiencing adverse exposures compared to whites. Models were stratified by sex and adjusted for confounders. Results. Chinese workers were generally more likely to report adverse exposures. In many cases, disparities were only evident or more pronounced among women. The shorter length of time in Canada of Chinese relative to whites accounted for some of the observed disparities. Meanwhile, the higher educational level of Chinese compared to whites provided them with no protection from adverse exposures. The risk of experiencing discrimination on the labor market and at work was more than 50% higher among Chinese men and women as whites, and those disparities, though reduced, persisted after adjustment for confounders. Conclusions. Discrimination is far more prevalent among Chinese than among whites and may explain their disproportionate exposure to other hazards.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Explain the importance of considering specific ethnic groups and gender differences in the evaluation of occupational health disparities; Define occupational hazards as including not only physical and psychosocial factors in the work environment but also employment characteristics such as non-standard employment, income insecurity, job instability, and lack of employment protection; Discuss reasons why education may not have a protective effect against adverse exposures for immigrant or minority populations.

Keyword(s): Immigrants, Occupational Exposure

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the principal or co-principal investigator of multiple published, peer-reviewed studies focusing on occupational health disparities. My research over the last 10 years has focused on immigrant and ethnic minority populations in the US and Canada. I have written the guidance for gender-based analysis for the World Health Organization.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.