The effect of labour market characteristics on Canadian immigrant employment in precarious work, 2006-2012.

Author:Hira-Friesen, Parvinder


Using data from the Canadian Labour Force Survey for 2006 through 2012, I examine the effects of characteristics of Census Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) on the likelihood of recent and established immigrants and the Canadian born to be employed in precarious work. Using multi-level models, I find that employment in temporary jobs and multiple jobs by both recent and established immigrant males is affected by a CMA's median hourly earnings as well as the immigrant representation in a CMA. Also, cross-level interactions reveal recent male immigrants to be less likely to be employed in multiple jobs in CMA in which the median wage is higher.

Keywords: Immigrants, census metropolitan areas, precarious work, Canada, sex


A partir des donnees de l'Enquete sur la population active du Canada de 2006 a 2012, j'examine les effets des caracteristiques des regions metropolitaines de recensement (RMR) sur la probabilite que les immigrants recents et etablis et les Canadiens nes soient employes dans un travail precaire. A l'aide de modeles a niveaux multiples, je constate que l'emploi dans les emplois temporaires et les emplois multiples, tant chez les immigrants recents que chez les immigrants etablis, est affecte par le salaire horaire median de l'AMC et la representation des immigrants dans une RMR. De plus, les interactions croisees revelent que les nouveaux immigrants de sexe masculin sont moins susceptibles d'etre employes dans de multiples emplois en RMR ou le salaire median est plus eleve.

Mots cles: Immigrants, regions metropolitaines de recensement, travail precaire, Canada, sexe


The labour force participation rate of a country reflects not only that nation's economic opportunities but also its ability to successfully integrate immigrants (both established and recent). Gainful employment, therefore, is a key component of economic integration into the host country. Unfortunately, individuals employed in precarious jobs often fall short of becoming economically viable. In this paper, I will highlight the shortcomings experienced by Canadian newcomers engaged in three types of precarious employment: involuntary part-time work, temporary job holders and multiple job holders and how they are affected by local labour market conditions.

Local labour markets determine varying immigrant experiences depending on the type of industry that is predominant within that Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) or province. For example, Alberta is known for its oil and gas industry, forestry, and agriculture, while eastern Canadian provinces incorporate the majority of manufacturing industries. In fact, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC, 2011), Ontario and Quebec together produce more than three-quarters of all Canadian manufactured goods. Unfortunately, underutilization of highly educated and highly skilled immigrant men and women is preventing Canada from replacing its "near retirement" workers whose numbers are growing at a rapid pace (Lochhead and Mackenzie, 2005). In fact, 90 percent of business leaders describe Canada's impending labour shortage problem as either moderate or serious (Lochhead and Mackenzie, 2005).

In order to further address looming labour shortages in Canada, it is also imperative to highlight the existence of sex differences within precarious work. According to Fuller and Vosko (2007) existing research suggests that temporary employment is organized in highly gendered and racialized ways in industrialized countries. Furthermore, Vosko, Zukewich, and Cranford (2003) contend that a majority of workers in the part-time forms of paid work are women. In fact, in 2002, women made up the majority of casual temporary employees, most of whom work part time, while men dominated seasonal forms of temporary paid work, most of which is full-time (Vosko et al. 2003). In addition, Vosko et al. (2003) identify "casualization" as a term to define the use of casual workers to replace permanent full-time labour. Vosko et al. further suggest that the casualization of the workforce results partly in young men, especially those who are immigrants or visible minorities, "experience[ing] downward pressure on earnings and conditions of work as they increasingly take jobs in occupations where women have traditionally been employed" (Vosko et al, 2003). Hence, it is vital to conduct a gender-based analysis of precarious work.

To facilitate an understanding of precarious jobs within the Canadian context, I utilize the theoretical approaches of labour market segmentation theory. A major variant of labour market segmentation theory, called dual labour market theory, divides labour markets into two largely non-overlapping sectors identified as primary and secondary sectors. A primary market consists of jobs that offer "high wages, good working conditions, employment stability and job security, and chances for advancement" (Snyder, Hayward, Hudis, 1978, p.709). The secondary sector, according to Piore, has jobs with low wages, poor working conditions, considerable variability in employment, "harsh and often arbitrary discipline", and not much opportunity for advancement (Piore, 1970, p.55). I focus on the secondary sector, identified by Piore as the arena where precarious employment flourishes. For example, involuntary part-time work provides many employees with low wages and little job security. Whereas multiple job holders earn more due to holding down more than one job but often have little job security or few company benefits, including medical, dental and pension plans. The last outcome variable I examine, temporary job holding, is also found in similar working environments. Piore also suggests that complex factors generate the dual market structure and determine access to primary vs. secondary sector employment. Important to the present study is what Piore refers to as behavioural traits such as race, demeanour, accent, and educational credentials. He refers to these traits as being statistically correlated with job performance but not causally related to it. Therefore, argues Piore, many qualified individuals are rejected because they possess these irrelevant traits (Piore, 1970). Since these traits are not causally correlated with job performance, asserts Piore, many qualified applicants are therefore rejected because they possess the wrong "traits". As such, primary sector jobs require employment stability, and some workers are therefore excluded because of unstable behaviour. There is a "fit" between job and worker characteristics in both segments. However, many persons qualified for primary employment are confined to secondary jobs because of attributes (especially immigrants) that employers associate with unstable work (Snyder, Hayward, Hudis, 1978, p.709). Although I acknowledge that not all newcomers possess all of the traits Piore refers to, it is vital to recognize that the majority of immigrants arriving in Canada since the late 1960s have been from non-European countries and therefore may be rejected due to "irrelevant traits".

Beyond these studies, Hodson and Kaufman (1982) argue that the dual economy perspective stresses the distinction between core and periphery industries. Again, a sizeable number of better jobs are found in the core which includes large corporations and government (Lowe and Lehmann, 2009). For example, large corporations provide high-quality careers for their workers, and subsequently subcontract services to smaller firms where both wages and working conditions are poor (Lowe and Lehmann, 2009). Additionally, movement to a better or primary labour market segment from a worse or secondary segment is often difficult (Lowe and Lehmann, 2009). This is especially apparent as many positions are subcontracted by the primary labour market and create nonstandard positions.

As Kalleberg (2009) argues, nonstandard employment is a shift away from standard work arrangements...

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