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Temporary Work

Temporary Work: The Gendered Rise of a Precarious Employment Relationship

LEAH F. VOSKO
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442680432
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  • Book Info
    Temporary Work
    Book Description:

    Taking gender as a central lens of analysis, this important new book explores how, and to what extent, ?temporary work? is becoming a norm for a diverse group of workers in the labour market.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8043-2
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    The research for this book began with the premise that the nature of work is changing, and that non-standard forms of employment are spreading rapidly to the point where the full-time permanent job – along with its typical package of benefits – is becoming something of an anomaly in the labour market. With the research complete, it became necessary to amend this premise. While there are indeed important changes taking place in the labour market, these changes are occurring on a bedrock of continuity. In the course of studying employment change, the underlying logic of capitalist labour markets comes into...

  7. Chapter 1 ‘Labour Is Not a Commodity’: Shifting Employment Norms and the Modern Labour Market Intermediary
    (pp. 14-44)

    More than perhaps any other category of workers, temporary help workers have the appearance of being listed, bought, sold, and traded in the labour market. Given that temporary help agencies are ‘labour suppliers,’ temporary help workers are treated like commodities even though they freely enter into a relationship with a temporary help agency. Thus, it is worth probing labour power’s commodity status under capitalism to locate and understand fully the situation of temporary help workers in contemporary Canadian society, how their status has changed over the twentieth century, and the gendered underpinnings of these changes.

    This chapter introduces the three...

  8. Chapter 2 Putting Workers in Their Place: The Early History of Private Employment Agencies
    (pp. 45-78)

    The roots of the Canadian THI lie in the history of labour market intermediaries, specifically private employment agents operating in the labour market in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In this era TERs did not exist in their present form, nor did temporary help agencies. Nevertheless, several precursors of this type of employment relationship and the ‘classic’ temporary help agency merit investigation.

    This chapter traces the prehistory of the contemporary TER, identifying the various actors involved in its early precursors. Operating in the labour market as early as the 1880s, private employment agents acting abroad to promote immigration,...

  9. Chapter 3 ‘Halfway Houses’ for ‘Housewives’: The Birth of the Temporary Help Industry
    (pp. 79-116)

    The period between the mid–1930s and the mid–1940s was relatively uneventful for the private employment agency industry. The postwar boom and the dramatic changes in the labour market that accompanied it contrasted sharply with that inactivity. Indeed, one vital segment of the private employment agency industry contributed to the postwar capital-labour entente. Responding to labour market policies and practices originating as early as the Great Depression, the THI emerged as a formal entity in the Canadian labour market at the end of the Second World War and it prospered throughout the postwar period. During this era, its success...

  10. Chapter 4 From Stop-Gap Workers to Staffing Services: The Expansion of the Temporary Help Industry
    (pp. 117-156)

    In the postwar era, the THI was quite successful in balancing the concerns of capital, organized labour, and the state and upholding the SER as the norm by targeting a narrow group of workers and a well-defined set of customers. But it brokered a somewhat different range of interests in the period spanning from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. By the 1970s, the industry had gained sufficient legitimacy in Canada and other nations pursuing a strategy of nonregulation that it no longer needed to rely on the SER as a counterweight to preserve its place in the labour...

  11. Chapter 5 Promising ‘Flexibility’ and Delivering Precariousness: The Shape of the Contemporary Temporary Employment Relationship
    (pp. 157-199)

    The Canadian THI gradually adopted a new marketing strategy from the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, one that complemented the decline of the SER and the feminization of the labour force and took advantage of the ‘special status’ that temporary help agencies first attained at the regulatory level in the post-Second World War era. In offering to provide ‘staffing services,’ temporary help agencies shifted their emphasis away from supplying temporary help workers to assuming a range of responsibilities typically accorded to the employer in a bilateral employment relationship. The THI’s new strategy was highly attractive from the perspective of its...

  12. Chapter 6 ‘Flexible Workers,’ Intractable Regulatory Regime: Regulating the Contemporary Temporary Employment Relationship
    (pp. 200-229)

    Temporary help work poses a fundamental challenge to the regulatory framework that grew up around the SER in Canada and other welfare states in the post-Second World War period: the challenge to preserve protections, benefits, and security for workers engaged in employment relationships where responsibility does not rest squarely with one entity.

    A central objective of the contemporary THI’s marketing strategy is to displace the SER – specifically, the bilateral employment relationship that lies at its foundation – and replace it with a TER. To promote the TER as an acceptable alternative to the SER, the THI is selling the...

  13. Chapter 7 ‘No Jobs, Lots of Work’: The Rise of the Temporary Employment Relationship and the Emergence of Workfare-Driven Social Policy
    (pp. 230-250)

    An official involved in a new welfare-to-work program in the province of Ontario made the preceding remarks to describe the changing nature of employment and justify the shape of this initiative. The program, known as Workfirst, seeks to match ‘employable’ social assistance recipients with temporary help agencies with the objective of reducing the welfare rolls. Thus, it reflects what some analysts label ‘workfarism,’ a labour market reorganization strategy that involves privatizing the design, administration, and delivery of employment training and placement, and marketizing welfare policy. In contrast to welfarism, which involved a sustained commitment to maintaining the SER as the...

  14. Chapter 8 The Challenge of Limiting Labour Market Fragmentation
    (pp. 251-278)

    This book began with the dual observation that the norm of the full-time permanent job – along with its typical package of benefits – is giving way to the spread of nonstandard employment relationships and that temporary help workers, whose precarious employment relationships reveal the character of this development, have the appearance of commodities that are listed, bought, sold, and traded in the labour market. Its central objective was to probe the commodity status of labour power under capitalism and the gendered ways that states have dealt with it historically through a case study of the TER. Chapters 2 through...

  15. Appendix A: Qualitative Methodology
    (pp. 279-280)
  16. Appendix B: Interviews
    (pp. 281-284)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 285-332)
  18. References
    (pp. 333-358)
  19. Index
    (pp. 359-380)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 381-381)