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Gender Paradoxes and the Rise of Contingent Work: Towards a Transformative Political Economy of the


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Title: Gender Paradoxes and the Rise of Contingent Work: Towards a Transformative Political Economy of the

Chapter 8
  • Gender Paradoxes and the Rise of Contingent Work
    Towards a Transformative Political Economy of the
    Labour Market

By Kristina Talevski and Aaron Boghossian
In the 1970s…
  • Keynesian demand-management techniques and
    social welfare policies were very apparent
  • The key feature of the Keynesian compromise was
    the trade-off of productivity gains for wage
    increases in key economic sectors, and this
    trade-off was secured through collective
    bargaining arrangements.
  • The golden years of labour market regulation
    legislations designed to promote sex equality in
  • The social norm was that of a male-dominated
    household in which their wage provided
    subsistence to women and children. The term
    family defined as units comprising a
    heterosexual couple and their offspring.

In the 1970s…
  • Although equality became an official theme of
    labour law and policy, an increasing proportion
    of employment deviated from the norm.
  • part-time, temporary and casual employment did
    not provide wages and benefits equivalent to the
  • women were over-represented in nonstandard
    employment relationships
  • productivity declined
  • unemployment increased
  • inflation grew

In the 1970s…
  • The federal government expanded unemployment
    insurance therefore recognizing that stable jobs
    could not be assumed and that workers required a
    stronger insurance system.
  • Across Canada, minimum wages, hours of work
    regulations, public holidays, paid vacations, and
    notice of termination of employment became the
  • This decade saw rapid expansion in the amount and
    kinds of legislation designed to recognize the
    increased labour-market participation of women
    and to promote equality in employment. Equal
    pay for work of equal value

In the 1970s…
  • Mid 1970s significant growth in part-time work,
    contract work, temporary work, home-based work,
    self-employment, and on-call work.
  • Nonstandard employment relationships began to
    rise. Women populated low-paid occupations, and
    the female employment norm departed significantly
    from that associated with men.
  • Even though collective bargaining legislation was
    strengthened and extended during the 1970s, it
    was never able to overcome labour market

In the 1970s…
  • Throughout the 1970s womens employment was
    regarded as a supplement to the male breadwinner

What is Contingent Work?
  • Contingent work includes forms of work involving
  • atypical employment contracts
  • limited social benefits and statutory
  • job insecurity
  • low job tenure
  • low wages
  • high risks of ill health

Contingent Work Representation
  • There are three groups which are over
    represented in the Contingent Work Force
  • Youth
  • Women
  • Immigrants

Women in the Workplace
Though we have come a long way when it comes to
equality in the work place, there is still a long
way to go. Women in the workplace are still
concentrated in jobs that are considered lower
status, and that receive lower pay.
Visible Minorities in the Workplace
Besides women, one of the largest under
represented and underpaid groups in the work
force are visible minorities
Lets take a look…
Women Visible Minorities in the Workplace
Lets take a CLOSER look…
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What are the barriers to the advancement of women?
  • Commitment to personal and family
  • Lack of mentoring opportunities
  • Lack of female role models
  • Stereotyping and preconceptions of womens roles
    and abilities
  • Exclusion from informal networks of communication
  • Failure of senior leaders to assume
    accountability for womens advancement

In the 1980s…
  • Profound economic recession at the beginning of
    the decade especially hit hard in the
    manufacturing sector, which caused the
    unemployment rate to increase.
  • Male wages took a hard hit which caused mens
    labour-force participation rate to decline and
    womens plateaued. Households became dependent
    on womens labour market participation in order
    to maintain their standard of living.
  • Malestream political economists ignored the
    enduring problem of childcare have not analyzed
    how the contradictory relationship between social
    reproduction and production for profit creates
    tensions that traditional labour market
    institutions cannot mediate.

In the 1980s…
  • Important to observe the relationships - in that
    the decline of the Standard Employment
    Relationship was caused by the rise of gendered
    contingency which then in turn caused the
    enduring dilemma posed by the need to care for
  • Proportion of women in the labour force grew,
    employment standards deteriorated, wages dropped,
    and contingent work spread.
  • Feminists emphasized on the significance of
    social reproduction required a reconceptualization
    of the labour market and its central

There are four major factors that have
contributed to the rise in contingent work
  • gender
  • social reproduction
  • the standard employment relationship
  • the paradox

What is Gender?
Gender is socially constructed. It is the social
significance attached to sexual difference which
in turn, structures organizations, affects
social and political relationships, and becomes
intrinsic to the construction of significant
social categories and political identities.
What is Social Reproduction?
Social reproduction refers to the social
processes and labour that goes into the daily and
generational maintenance of the working
What is the Standard Employment Relationship?
Standard Employment Relationship (SER) identified
with a full-time, full-year employment
relationship where the worker has one employer,
works on the employers premises, and has access
to social benefits and entitlements to complete
the social wage. This includes Unemployment
insurance, workers compensation, and public
What is The Paradox?
Notion of Paradox is useful in understanding a
central and irresolvable tension in womens
struggle for equality the tension between
pursuing equality on the basis of sameness or on
the basis of difference.
In the 1990s…
  • Womens wages polarized, young men lost ground,
    the labour market became increasingly segmented
    by age, race and immigration status.
  • The introduction of the North American Free Trade
    Agreement (NAFTA) caused turmoil in the Canadian
    labour market.
  • In this decade, economic restructuring undermined
    the conditions for collective bargaining to
    function in the private sector.
  • The contraction of the SER and the parallel
    growth of contingent forms of nonstandard
    employment heightened contradictory tendencies in
    the labour market.

In the 1990s…
  • There became a widening gap between the highest-
    and the lowest-earning men.
  • Growing trend with regards to the gendering of
    jobs whereby more jobs take on the character and
    conditions of work conventionally associated with
    womens work but income and occupational
    polarization between the sexes persists.

Advantages of Part Time Employment
  • For Employer
  • work scheduling flexibility
  • reduced compensation costs
  • increased ability to add/reduce programs
  • For Employee
  • control over personal time
  • more variety in jobs
  • consultant tax advantages

Limitations of Part Time Employment
  • For Employer
  • no organizational loyalty
  • costs of continuous replacement
  • costs of continual training
  • strategic competencies can quit
  • For Employee
  • no job security
  • limited benefits
  • stresses of continuous learning
  • lack of training and career progression

  • Contingency not only undermines the standard of
    living for working people but also jeopardizes
    the ability of people to rear children, care for
    loved ones, obtain self-fulfillment, and
    contribute to the social good.
  • The way out of the impasse reflected in the
    present paradox is to shift attention towards the
    supply side of the labour market and to cultivate
    strategies around improved childcare, education,
    and healthcare.

  • In order to move forward, it is essential to
    force the state, employers, and trade unions to
    regulate the labour market.
  • The challenge is to institutionalize forms of
    labour regulation that link production to social
    reproduction, inevitably by breaking down the
    sex/gender division of labour.

1. Name the three groups which are over
represented in the Contingent Work Force.
2. Name the four major factors that have led a
rise in the Contingent Work Force.
3. Name three types of work that would be
included in contingent work
4. Name three barriers to the advancement of
women in the workplace
5. The introduction of this in the 1990s caused
much turmoil in the Canadian labour market.
6. Name one advantage and one limitation to part
time labour for employers.
Discussion Questions
  • 1. In the past, women have faced numerous
    barriers in the workplace, and although it is
    said that major improvements have been made with
    regards to equality, youth and immigrants have
    been added to this group.
  • Has equality in the workplace actually improved
    or worsened? Explain.

Discussion Questions
  • 2. Women in the workplace receive lower wages,
    and occupy lower status jobs.
  • Is state intervention needed to help women gain
    an equal footing in the workplace? Discuss.