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Temporary Employment and Social Inequality in Canada: Exploring Intersections of Gender, Race and Immigration Status


Using data from the 2002–2004 waves of Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, this article investigates the consequences of different types of temporary employment—fixed-term or contract, casual, agency and seasonal employment—for differently situated workers in Canada. Attention to intersecting social locations of gender, race and immigrant status helps capture the complex implications of temporary work for inequality. In particular, it highlights the salience of gender relations in shaping workers’ experience of insecurity in different types of temporary employment.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    In this article, we use the term “gender” to refer to social relations between the sexes. Sexual differences are material to a large degree (Armstrong and Armstrong 1983; Hennessy 2000; Jenson 1986), but gender is socially constructed (Creese 1999; Scott 1986). We take “race” to be a social construct tied to racialization, a process of signification in which human beings are categorized into “races” by reference to real or imagined phenotypical or genetic differences (Miles 1987, p. 7). Racial categories, including “visible minority,” “Black,” or “South Asian,” and “white,” are constructed through processes of racialization embedded in daily interactions, ideologies, policies and practices.

  2. 2.

    Authors’ calculations from the 1989 General Social Survey and 2005 Labour Force Survey.

  3. 3.

    Other factors cited as relevant to recent immigrants’ worse prospects include language skills and the general deterioration of outcomes for new labour market entrants (see Aydemir and Skuterud 2004; Green and Worswick 2002; Picot and Hou 2003).

  4. 4.

    This transformation addresses the skewness common in wage data.

  5. 5.

    We use “visible minority” and “non-visible minority” as indicators for processes of racialization as they are the indicators used by Statistics Canada and prescribed by federal employment equity legislation. We recognize, however, that ‘race’ is a socially constructed category and that the terms adopted by Statistics Canada reflect processes of racialization. embedded in daily interactions, ideologies, policy and social relations in core institutions.

  6. 6.

    This definition includes all work (part-time and full-time) since first starting to work full time. A value of zero is given for people with less than a year of experience and for those who never worked full-time.

  7. 7.

    Full regression results available upon request.

  8. 8.

    We also estimated a model adding geographic controls (region of residence and urban residence). As results differ very little with the addition of these variables, we do not include the results of this model in our table or discussion.


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The authors thank Paul Bowles, David Green and Fiona MacPhail as well as two anonymous reviewers, for their comments on an earlier version of this paper. Leah F. Vosko also thanks the Canada Research Chairs Programme and the Standard Grants Program of Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. Sylvia Fuller thanks the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and Izaak Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs.

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Correspondence to Sylvia Fuller.

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Fuller, S., Vosko, L.F. Temporary Employment and Social Inequality in Canada: Exploring Intersections of Gender, Race and Immigration Status. Soc Indic Res 88, 31–50 (2008).

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  • Temporary employment
  • Gender
  • Immigration
  • Inequality