Barriers to Employment Inclusion in Rural Canada

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Although much of Canada’s economy relies on natural resources found in rural settings, poverty and barriers to employment inclusion for people living in rural communities are a growing issue. Where marginalized populations are concerned (for example, people with disabilities and aboriginal people), issues of poverty and unemployment are further exacerbated. At regional and national forums on employment inclusion it has become increasingly common for inclusion professionals to raise the issue of barriers experienced in rural communities.

Barriers in rural communities are not just around transportation – although this is a significant factor for many. Reduced access to education, training and literacy programs plays a prominent role in rural poverty and higher unemployment rates. Reduced access to generic services and government services is an issue as well. Smaller populations and economies based on a single resource (agriculture, forestry, fossil fuel, etc.) further limit employment options for people and increase competition for jobs.

What is a Supported Employment organization operating with limited resources in a rural setting to do?

Federal and provincial governments are well aware that policies impacting negatively on employment participation and poverty in rural settings need to be revised. Waiting on such policy changes is not a proactive approach, however, diversification of rural economies is a policy direction that employment inclusion organizations can most certainly sink their teeth into. Supported Entrepreneurship, Business Co-ops and Social Enterprise all represent vehicles for labour market participation and Community Economic Development (CED).

Community Economic Development is an area in which rural service providers must develop familiarity and proficiency. There is a lot of common ground between CED and inclusion services. There are also a lot of resources available. CED relies on that ‘pull yourself up by your own bootstraps’ approach that is prevalent in rural communities. In order to be successful, CED approaches must utilize partnerships and a grassroots, people-first approach. It’s challenging, exciting work – and it’s the most likely solution to stabilizing Canada’s rural economies while ensuring that everyone is included.

For more information and resources – contact the Canadian CED Network.

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