Focusing on the part-time job

Jason Guriel, a second-year York graduate student in English who writes on research topics, sent the following article to YFile.

In recent years, many researchers have devoted their attention to analyzing the ways in which the structure of work and the labour force in Canada have changed since the 1980s. But less attention has been focused on how young and older workers have been affected by these changes – until now.

Norene Pupo, Director of the Centre for Research on Work and Society (CRWS) at York University, is currently leading a major research project entitled, “Restructuring Work and Labour in the New Economy”. Her project investigates the nature and dimensions of change within the Canadian economy as well as the effect of those changes on participation and equity in the labour market.

Left: Norene Pupo

Pupo, an expert on part-time work, examines how companies in the New Economy “cheapen” jobs by chopping them up into part-time endeavours. More specifically, she has observed how part-time jobs increasingly demand more and more of their young workers while providing fewer benefits.

“These days, young workers have to cope with the pressures traditionally reserved for middle-aged workers,” notes Pupo. “They are working longer hours with greater responsibilities at a younger age—and all for not much more than minimum wage, usually.”

According to Pupo, part-time jobs can also detract greatly from a young worker’s education. Pupo has also undertaken groundbreaking research on older workers. In one recent study, she discovered a crucial difference in the reasons why older men and women assume part-time jobs…

“Because their pensions are usually not adequate,” claims Pupo, “older women return to work primarily for financial reasons. Older men, on the other hand, while also motivated by money, often take up part-time jobs out of sheer boredom.”

According to Pupo’s unique research, this phenomenon is the result of early retirement packages that serve to lure men out of the workforce when they are usually not quite ready to leave.

Pupo’s work reflects York’s intense commitment to coordinating major collaborative research initiatives. “Restructuring Work and Labour in the New Economy,” for example, is a 3-year Research Alliance project funded through the Initiative on the New Economy by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The project involves interdisciplinary scholars from 10 universities, as well as collaborators at eight trade unions.