December 2020
Three Things (Among Many) that the COVID-19 Pandemic can 
Teach us About Occupation – Part Two

This is the second part of a two-part newsletter written by Katherine Stewart PhD, OT Reg. (Ont.). Click here for Part One of this newsletter.

2. Occupation is an important axis along which inequities and marginalization occur. 

A number of societal “fault lines” (Choo, 2020, para. 2), or longstanding systemic inequities, have been highlighted by the pandemic, with the most recent data showing that COVID-19 disproportionately affects those marginalized by intersections of racism, sexism, and classism (e.g., African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council & Innovative Research Group, 2020; Sundaram et al., 2020). Among the fault lines more clearly exposed by the pandemic are those related to occupation: COVID-19 has spurred increased recognition of the critical importance of jobs typically viewed as “low status” to our food supply chains, transport networks, and elsewhere. Often, these jobs are lower-paying and involve increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 and decreased access to social protections like employment insurance or benefits (Wherry, 2020). The pandemic has offered a necessary challenge to common understandings of “essential work” and the value we place on these occupations in our society. 

3. Occupation can reveal the power of the human spirit.
Even in the face of adversity, there remain countless stories of people demonstrating kindness and compassion to others, often through occupation. In pursuit of slowing the spread of COVID-19; supporting those who are experiencing physical, psychological, and/or emotional challenges; or simply bringing joy to others’ lives, people have been taking up new occupations (e.g., sewing face masks for healthcare workers) and modifying familiar occupations (e.g., teaching dance classes on neighbourhood streets vs. in community centres; see Jones et al., 2020). In these ways, as in so many others, the pandemic has shed light on our drive for connection as facilitated by doing. 

We invite readers to share their professional or personal experiences of how occupation reveals the human spirit during this pandemic. These will be collected and published in a later newsletter. Please send your submissions to  


 African-Canadian Civic Engagement Council, & Innovative Research Group (2020). Impact of COVID-19: Black Canadian perspectives.  

Choo, E. K. (2020). COVID-19 fault lines. The Lancet, 395(10233), 1333.  

Jones, M., Landau, E., McKeon, L., Philips, R., & Toub, M. (2020, August 14). 16 acts of kindness that will bring a smile to your face.  

Sundaram, M. E., Calzavara, A., Mishra, S., Kustra, R., Chan, A. K., Hamilton, M. A., Djebli, M., Rosella, L. C., Watson, T., Chen, H., Chen, B., Baral, S. D., & Kwong, J. C. (2020). The individual and social determinants of COVID-19 in Ontario, Canada: A population-wide study. medRxiv.  

Wherry, A. (2020, May 10). The wages of fear: The pandemic and the future of low-paid ‘essential’ work. CBC News. 

You can purchase the English version of the manual and measure in digital PDF and paper formats. The French version of the manual and measure are available in digital PDF format.

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