Online database connects the dots of job insecurity

Comparative Perspectives on Precarious Employment Database partial poster

Students and scholars can now turn to a “living database” to better understand labour market insecurity in Europe and North America over the last 30 years. Under the leadership of political science Professor Leah Vosko, the Comparative Perspectives on Precarious Employment Database (CPD) has been designed by researchers based in Canada and abroad to support the study of precarious employment in a comparative context.

Leah Vosko
Leah Vosko

Built over the last six years, with the support of the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the CPD allows researchers –both novices and experts –to investigate how particular forms of employment identified with dimensions of labour market insecurity take shape in different places, including Canada, the United States, Australia and 30 European countries. Demographic factors shaping precarious employment can, in addition, be examined using the CPD, including workers’ social location, such as gender and immigration status, and social context, such as occupation, industry and geography.

The database is also built for use as an interactive, in-class teaching tool.

“We are constantly updating the database, not only with new years of data, but on the basis of feedback from people who are using its interactive tables, by creating new concepts for the thesaurus, new citations for the library, new statistical variables, and new tables for use by scholars and students,” says Vosko.

Pat Armstrong
Pat Armstrong

Vosko and her colleagues are launching the database on Feb. 26 with a panel discussion on feminist political economy and the study of labour market insecurity. The panel will take place at 305 York Lanes, from 1 to 3pm. Panellists all had central roles as collaborators in developing the CPD. They include Vosko, York University Professor Pat Armstrong, Saint Mary’s University Professor Martha MacDonald, Yukon College Professor Deatra Walsh, University of British Columbia’s Professor Sylvia Fuller, York post-doctoral fellow Kate Laxer and database manager Nadia Guiliano.

Comparative Perspectives on Precarious Employment Database poster“We hope that this online database will serve as a hub for researchers keen to pursue nuanced comparative analysis as the data have been harmonized so as to enable researchers to do so with greater ease than if they themselves were to try to draw together data from these many different countries,” says Vosko.

For example, as a researcher using the database, “one might ask the question: does precarious employment take form differently in different places? Exploring the CPD, one might find that in Australia, part-time work, much of which is also casual, is a highly precarious form of employment; whereas in Canada, solo self-employment –where the worker doesn’t employ others – can take on many dimensions of labour market insecurity. By consulting the CPD library of multidisciplinary resources, the researcher might also discover that, in part, the shape of labour laws and policies governing conditions of work and employment underlie these distinct manifestations of precariousness,” she says. “To begin to apprehend the broader socioeconomic problems precarious employment engenders, one might then explore which people from which social groups are in these forms of employment in these two different places and discover that, in both instances, gender matters.”

Access to the statistical database is free and researchers from universities or public institutions can apply to use it.

“I hope for CPD’s widespread use,” says Vosko, “and, in an ideal world, that its resources help inform research and policy making to mitigate labour market insecurity among people in a range of different places.”