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Researching the impact of COVID-19 on northern economy

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A Northern Policy Institute study on the impact of COVID-19 on the region’s economy includes recommendations. 

Researchers found the first wave of the pandemic saw a slightly less reduction in employment in the north compared to the rest of the province. 

However, they say there was a much greater drop in employment in the north during the second wave. 

“It could, partly, be due to the cyclical nature of Northern Ontario’s economy,” states a release. “Furthermore, the male employment rate dropped more severely in northern Ontario compared to the province while females, on the other hand, were less likely to become unemployed due to their over-representation in the public sector. More males were employed in the private sector, which was more responsive to the crisis.”

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One of the study’s four authors, Dr. Karl Skogstad from Lakehead University, says one goal is to arm decision-makers, community practitioners, business owners, and others, for potential crises in the future.

“More than that, it underlines the continued need to recognize the distinct realities of Northern Ontario in policy-making,” he says. 

Policy recommendations include:

  • Additional employment support following a shutdown can be limited in time, as labour markets appear to recover quickly.
  • Future public spending cuts should consider the disproportionately negative effect they will have on Northern Ontario, a region already characterized by relatively low incomes.
  • Public health policies should be implemented at a regional level.

The authors also found COVID-19 infection rates were much lower in the north than in southern Ontario, and the timing of the waves of infections in our region did not match up with those in the south. 

“Even in the north there were differences in the infection rates across public health units,” states a release. 

Researchers say potential reasons include a regional industrial composition difference that could influence the ability of shutdowns to be effective, along with Northern communities being less densely populated.

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