On the Move: Project Update (January 2018)

Every year, thousands of workers across Canada travel from their home communities to earn family income. Some jobs require hours of commuting every day, while others take workers from home for days, weeks, months or even years. This phenomenon of employment-related geographic mobility (E-RGM), or extended commuting, is currently widespread in Canada’s workforce and is growing each year.

The Vanier Institute of the Family is continuing to work with the On the Move Partnership to enhance the national understanding of how this mobility affects households, communities and the economy.

  • CBC Ideas host Paul Kennedy is working with On the Move with the aim of producing two new programs in 2018.
  • On the Move is planning another Knowledge Mobilization event with the Vanier Institute and researcher Christina Murray from the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). This event will focus on the Families, Mobility and Work Atlantic Canadian Symposium and will be held at UPEI this spring.
  • On the Move’s Alberta team is preparing a series of composite stories of work-related mobility featuring the experiences of Indigenous, interprovincial and international movers/workers. These stories will be available on the On the Move website via a wide range of mediums, including textual, visual and audio files, as well as policy narratives and maps.
  • The final On the Move Symposium is scheduled to occur in St. John’s between November 14 and 17, 2018. More details will be available soon.

Congratulations to Dr. Barbara Neis, recipient of the prestigious 2017 Memorial University Paton Award, which recognizes Memorial University faculty who embody the university’s mission by demonstrating exceptional teaching, undertaking world-class research and sharing their knowledge and expertise widely.

The Vanier Institute will continue to publish findings on our website, in our e-newsletter and through social media, and to collaborate on and participate in project conferences, panels and events throughout 2018.

Learn more about the On the Move Partnership and mobility in Canada:

 


Published on January 22, 2018




On the Move Event Highlights Research on Impacts of Employment-Related Mobility

Many Canadians travel long distances and are away from home for extended periods of time because of where or how they work. Some are away for weeks or even months at a time before returning home, and then the cycle repeats.

On December 5, 2017, researchers and community members gathered to participate in a public forum titled On the Move: Community and Family Impacts of Mobility for Work.

The On the Move Partnership is a national research project headquartered at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Headed by Memorial sociologist Dr. Barbara Neis, this partnership includes more than 40 researchers from 17 disciplines and 22 universities, who are working with the Vanier Institute and more than 30 other community partners to design the research, interpret the results and disseminate the findings to diverse stakeholders. This project is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and Innovate NL, and is now in its sixth year of operation.

The forum presented an overview of findings from across Canada on different patterns of extended mobility for work, as well as their impacts on source and host communities (both rural and urban), and on mobile workers and their families.

Below you can watch a discussion and Q&A session from this event.

 

More from the On the Move Partnership:

 


Published on December 19, 2017




A Snapshot of Men, Work and Family Relationships in Canada

Over the past half-century, fatherhood in Canada has evolved dramatically  as men across the country adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental contexts. Throughout this period, men have had diverse employment experiences as they manage their multiple roles inside and outside the family home. These experiences have been impacted by a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) cultural norms and expectations, family status, disability and a variety of demographic characteristics, as well as women’s increased involvement in the paid labour force.

While many fathers in previous generations acted exclusively as “traditional” breadwinning father figures, modern fathers are increasingly likely to embrace caring roles and assume more household management responsibilities. In doing so, dads across Canada are renegotiating and reshaping the relationship between fatherhood and work.

Highlights include:

  • Men are less likely than in previous generations to fulfill a breadwinner role exclusively. In 2014, 79% of single-earner couple families with children included a breadwinning father, down from 96% in 1976.
  • Men account for a growing share of part-time workers. One-quarter (25%) of Canadians aged 25 to 54 who worked part-time in 2016 were men, up from 15% in 1986.
  • The proportion of never-married men is on the rise. In 2011, more than half (54%) of men in Canada aged 30 to 34 report never having been married, up from 15% in 1981.
  • Canada is home to many caregiving men. In 2012, nearly half (46%) of all caregivers in Canada were men, 11% of whom provided 20 or more hours per week of care.
  • Many men want to be stay-at-home parents. Nearly four in 10 (39%) surveyed men say they would prefer to be a stay-at-home parent.
  • Many men engage in household work and related activities. Nearly half (45%) of surveyed fathers in North America say they’re the “primary grocery shopper” in their household.
  • Flex at work can facilitate work–life balance. More than eight in 10 (81%) full-time working fathers who have a flexible schedule say they’re satisfied with their work–life balance, compared with 76% for those without flex.

 

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download A Snapshot of Men, Work and Family Relationships in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

 

Learn more about men, work and family relationships in Canada:

 


Published on June 13, 2017




A Snapshot of Women, Work and Family in Canada

Canada is home to more than 18 million women (9.8 million of whom are mothers), many of whom fulfill multiple responsibilities at home, at work and in the community. Over many generations, women in Canada have had diverse employment experiences that continue to evolve and change. These experiences have differed significantly from those of men, and there is a great deal of diversity in the experiences among women, which are impacted by a variety of factors including (but not limited to) cultural norms and expectations, family status, disability and a variety of demographic characteristics.

To explore the diverse and evolving work and family experiences of women in Canada, the Vanier Institute of the Family has created A Snapshot of Women, Work and Family in Canada. This publication is a companion piece to our Fifty Years of Women, Work and Family in Canada timeline, providing visually engaging data about the diverse work and family experiences of women across Canada.

Highlights include:

  • The share of all core working-aged women (25 to 54 years) who are in the labour force has increased significantly across generations, from 35% in 1964 to 82% in 2016.
  • Employment rates vary among different groups of core working-aged women, including those who are recently immigrated (53%), women reporting an Aboriginal identity (67%) and those living with a disability (52% to 56%, depending on the age subgroup).
  • On average, women without children earn 12% more per hour than those with children – a wage gap sometimes referred to as the “mommy tax.”
  • Nearly one-third (32%) of women aged 25 to 44 who were employed part-time in 2016 said that they were working part-time because they were caring for children.
  • 70% of mothers with children aged 5 and under were employed in 2015, compared with only 32% in 1976.
  • In 2013, 11% of all recent mothers inside Quebec and 36% in the rest of Canada, respectively, did not receive maternity and/or parental leave benefits – a difference attributed to the various EI eligibility regimes in the provinces.
  • 72% of all surveyed mothers in Canada report being satisfied with their work–life balance, but this rate falls to 63% for those who are also caregivers.
  • 75% of working mothers with a flexible work schedule report being satisfied with their work–life balance – a rate that falls to 69% for those without flexibility.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download A Snapshot of Women, Work and Family in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Learn more about modern motherhood in Canada:

 


Published on May 9, 2017




Employment Mobility and Family Gentrification in Montreal

Steven High (Concordia University)
Lysiane Goulet Gervais (Concordia University)
Michelle Duchesneau (Concordia University)
Dany Guay-Bélanger (Carleton University)

As Canada’s economy evolves, along with the opportunities and constraints it provides, family members adapt to fulfill their responsibilities at home and at work. For many family members, this can involve travelling long distances for work and being away from home for days, weeks or even months at a time. Since 2012, the On the Move Partnership((On the Move is a cross-sectoral partnership involving 40 researchers from 17 disciplines and 22 universities across Canada and around the world that is funded by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).)) has been exploring this phenomenon of employment-related geographic mobility (E-RGM) and has found that more Canadians than ever before are regularly commuting to work over longer distances in “complex and nuanced” patterns.((Michael Hann, Deatra Walsh and Barbara Neis, “At the Crossroads: Geography, Gender and Occupational Sector in Employment-Related Geographical Mobility,” Canadian Studies in Population, 41:3–4 (2014).))

Most people think of rural work environments such as northern gas and oil or mining worksites when examining the impact of mobile work and rarely consider Canada’s inner-city regions, yet these emerging labour patterns are shaping the social and economic environments of communities of all kinds.

As part of the On the Move Partnership, we have explored the impact of mobile work in urban centres through extensive interviews over the past two years with Canadians engaged in mobile work, which ranged from extended daily commutes to extended travel across Quebec and around the world. The workers and families in this study were living in Montreal’s Southwest neighbourhoods of Little Burgundy, Saint-Henri and Pointe-Saint-Charles. Once heavily industrialized, these inner-city areas experienced social and economic change as a result of the rapid deindustrialization and out-migration that occurred during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. This was followed by a period of family gentrification, as middle-class people moved into the areas with their loved ones.

Families “localize” resource access to manage responsibilities despite absences

Our interview findings suggest that there is a connection between employment mobility and family gentrification. Families with sufficient financial resources are choosing to live in inner-city neighbourhoods in order to “localize” other aspects of their lives. This localization includes (but is not limited to) ensuring that community resources such as neighbourhood daycares and schools, playgrounds, stores and public transportation (especially the city’s metro system and the airport express bus) are readily accessible to households in which a family member is engaged in mobile work.
 

One parent’s mobility often leads to the relative immobility of other family members, who then often become more dependent on proximity to community resources.

 
Proximity to the central city serves to counterbalance the prolonged absences of family members resulting from work-related mobility. Among two-parent families, since this mobility results in an absence from the family home, one parent’s mobility often leads to the relative immobility of other family members, who then often become more dependent on proximity to community resources.

Mobile work adds complexity to family life and relationships

In this study, interviewed parents shared their reflections on the impact of mobile work on their children and on family life. One mother, Imane,((First names have been changed to ensure privacy.)) expressed concern about the impact of the work-related mobility on her children’s physical health: “The funny thing is that young kids tend to stress without letting you know. And the only way that they let you know is that they get sick. So, when he travels a lot, they get sick a lot. It is their way of saying that they are not happy about this situation.”
 

“… young kids tend to stress without letting you know. And the only way that they let you know is that they get sick. So, when he travels a lot, they get sick a lot. It is their way of saying that they are not happy about this situation.” (study participant)

 
Family members engaged in mobile work expressed concerns about managing their parenting roles when they are often away from home. Some shared feelings of sadness and a longing to be more involved in their children’s lives and frustration around having to schedule their children’s activities according to their travel plans – something that surfaced repeatedly in the interviews.

One mobile-working mother, Kate, told us that returning home after being away for weeks at a time made her feel as though she had missed large chunks of her son’s development and growth. With both Kate and her partner, Russell, being mobile workers, even when one is home, the other is frequently away. Life in not quite the same in those moments, she says, “Whether it is Russell or whether it is me, we are always waiting a little bit to live.”

Among our interviewees, Imane had the most to say about the impact of mobile work on family life. If her interview had a recurring theme, it would be that her family life in the context of mobile work is “complicated.” Asked about the effect of her husband’s travels on the family, she replies, “That’s kind of complicated, because we need help with the kids. I have to get the girls ready.” The eldest is sent to school with friends, while Imane takes her youngest to daycare. She picks them up at the end of the day and prepares dinner without her partner being there. “It’s not just taking care of the kids, it’s doing everything like taking care of the home yourself, doing groceries, meals, plus the activities, the school and daycare. Life gets complicated.” Her husband’s absence leaves her with little flexibility and a significantly increased family workload. “I can’t even get sick,” she says.

Parents who stay “back home” adapt to accommodate their partners’ mobility

As she is self-employed, Imane usually has to work after the kids are asleep: “But when he’s away, I am so tired that I can’t really work when the girls sleep.” As a result, her own work is often left undone, something she finds stressful. Luckily, Imane’s mother lives in Montreal and helps manage family roles and responsibilities, such as cooking, laundry or picking up the girls. She stressed the importance of maintaining a routine, even when her husband is away for extended periods: “Life doesn’t change when he is away… [so] we continue living our life as usual.” Summing up things, Imane says, “You continue the routines and the busy schedule of having kids.”

Family life moves on even when a parent is away at work. One mobile worker, Pierre, explained that travelling for work wasn’t an issue before his daughter was born. Now, he is concerned about spending time with her, since his long commutes mean that when he leaves and arrives from work she is usually asleep. He is also worried that travelling for work will affect his capacity to take on his share of familial responsibilities. Several interviewees also said that they used to travel as a family when one of them had to work away from home, but that they stopped once their children reached school age. Imane’s family used to travel together but didn’t want to take the children out of school too often, so they now only rarely accompany their father when he travels for work.

Families use technology to maintain and manage family relationships

Families are increasingly using technology and new media to bridge the distance and remain present in family life. While not all families have access to these tools, these “virtual intimacies” are a growing reality and can help provide continuity in family rituals and relationships in the context of family absences.((R. Wilding, “‘Virtual’ Intimacies? Families Communicating Across Transnational Contexts,” Global Networks 6:2 (February 28, 2006), doi:10.1111/j.1471-0374.2006.00137.x.))
 

“Virtual intimacies” are a growing reality and can help provide continuity in family rituals and relationships in the context of family absences.

 
A number of study participants spoke of the importance of FaceTime, Skype and other social media in maintaining a connection to home while away. For example, while he’s away, Russell “continues to participate in some of the rituals of life with a child, such as bedtime stories and goodnight songs via Skype.” His partner, Kate, elaborates, “This didn’t exist before, 12 years ago, let’s say. It wasn’t possible – it was phone bills through the roof [laughs]. Nowadays, it is possible to communicate for a small charge or no cost at all; it really, really, really helps to save the day.” Imane says that when her husband travels internationally, communication can be difficult. If he is in India or Pakistan, there is a 10- or 11-hour difference, which can make it hard to find the right time to connect. Also, she says that “the girls don’t like the phone so much, so yeah, it’s not easy.” Her eldest would “barely say ‘Hi, I’m good, everything’s good. Here’s Mom.’” At only 3 years of age, her youngest child doesn’t really speak on the phone yet.

Children notice routine changes resulting from mobility

In order to gain an intergenerational understanding of how work mobility affects family life, we interviewed four children ages 5 to 7 as part of the study. Much of what these children shared reinforced what the parents said, while other elements of the interviews revealed a different perspective. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the children mainly recall the disruptions in their routine.

They fondly remember staying up late or eating certain foods as joyous occasions when the travelling parent is away. June talked about being sad that her mom, Laura, was away but also appreciates the extra time with dad and the extra privileges she receives, “I’m sad when mom is gone, but I am also happy because I get to stay up late.” Some of the children remember receiving and giving gifts upon return and other people caring for them: grandparents, family friends and others.

Families adapt to fulfill their responsibilities

By focusing on three different locations, our place-based approach to the issue of employment mobility allowed us to view mobility from another perspective. This approach highlighted some of the impacts on family life while considering the full spectrum of mobile work, from extended daily commuters to regular travellers who leave home for extended periods. It also encouraged us to consider the relationship between employment mobility and family fixity (aspects of family life that are geographically bound or fixed), particularly as it plays out in “local” processes of urban gentrification. Our research highlighted that while families experience a number of impacts resulting from mobile work, they evolve and adjust in diverse ways – including living close to community resources, adapting family relationships and using technology – to manage their multiple responsibilities.

 


Steven High is a Professor of History at Concordia University and co-founder of the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling.

Lysiane Goulet Gervais recently graduated from Concordia University’s art therapy program with a master’s degree.

Michelle Duchesneau is a graduate student at Concordia University’s School for Community and Public Affairs.

Dany Guay-Bélanger is currently working toward a master’s degree in the public history program at Carleton University.

Photo: New condominium complexes now line Montreal’s Lachine Canal. Photograph by David W. Lewis.

Download this article in PDF format.

Published on April 25, 2017