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Social Problems. Work and Unemployment. Overview. Modern economy originates with the information revolution and post-industrial economy - a productive system based on service work and information technology - began in 1950s Character of work changed: From tangible products to ideas

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social problems

Social Problems

Work and Unemployment


Modern economy originates with the information revolution andpost-industrial economy

- a productive system based on service work and information technology

- began in 1950s

Character of work changed:

  • From tangible products to ideas
  • From mechanical skills to literacy skills
  • From factories to almost anywhere
economic systems
Economic Systems


  • Private ownership of property
  • Pursuit of personal profit
  • Competition and consumer choice

Welfare capitalism combines a mostly market-based economy with extensive social welfare programs

economic systems cont
Economic Systems (cont.)


  • Collective ownership of property
  • Pursuit of collective goals
  • Government control of economy

Communism: a hypothetical economic and political system in which members are socially equal

capitalism vs socialism
Capitalism vs. Socialism
  • Economic productivity: capitalism out produces socialism 2.7:1.
  • Economic equality: socialist economies create less income disparity but offer a lower overall standard of living.
  • Personal freedom: capitalism has freedom to act and socialism has freedom from want.
the global economy
The Global Economy

The global economy expands economic activity that crosses national borders


  • Global division of labour
  • Products pass through several nations
  • National governments have less control
  • Small number of businesses control a vast share of the market
  • Concerns about the rights and opportunities of workers are raised
other consequences
Other consequences
  • The world's countries are becoming specialized.
  • Governments can no longer fully control the economic activity that takes place within their borders.
  • A small number of businesses control a vast share of the world's economic activities.
new technology and the workplace
New Technology and the Workplace

How computers change the workplace:

  • “Deskilling” of labour: Machines make some some workers and managers obsolete
  • Making work more abstract: Understanding rather than doing is key
  • Limiting workspace interaction
  • Enhance employer’s control of workers
  • Allow relocation of work: call centres
economic sectors
Economic Sectors
  • Primary: part that draws raw materials from the natural environment
  • Secondary: part that transforms raw materials into manufactured goods
  • Tertiary: part that generates services
  • “Social reproduction sector”: unpaid labour
dual labour market
Dual Labour Market
  • Primary labour market: occupations that provide extensive benefits to workers, e.g., white collar professions and upper management
  • Secondary labour market: jobs that provide minimal benefits to workers, e.g., low-skill service and blue-collar work
  • “Reserve army of labour”: those last hired in expansion and first fired with contraction
labour force participation in the canadian post industrial economy
Labour Force Participation in the Canadian Post-Industrial Economy

In 2008, 18.2 million people in the labour force but by Feb. 2009, down to 16.9%

  • 73% of men and 63% of women aged 15+ are in the labour force
  • Approximately 4% are in agricultural work
  • Approximately 75% of the labour force is in the service sector, but much service work pays much less than former factory jobs
types of employment
Types of Employment
  • Professions: require extensive education and training – “white collar work”
    • Paraprofessionals: have skills but lack theoretical knowledge
  • Unionized work: 1/3 of labour force
    • Some is “blue collar” work but highest level is in public administration (i.e. teachers)
self and underemployment
Self- and Underemployment

Self-employment: earning a living without working for a large organization.

  • Includes professionals, farmers, trades people, and home businesses
  • Approximately 15% of labour force

Underemployment uses less than one’s full talents or abilities

  • 50% of university grads are in jobs that do not require these credentials.
  • But, level of education is a predictor of employment
underground economy
Underground Economy

Economic activity involving income or the exchange of goods and services that is not reported to the government as required by law, e.g., baby-sitting, garage sales, and illegal activity

  • 15-20 percent of economic activity
  • Statistics Canada suggests 3.5 percent of GDP
  • Increased with imposition of GST
  • Predicted and described by Max Weber
  • Based on rational-legal authority structure
  • Ideal bureaucracy has Christmas tree shape
  • Downward chain of command and upward information flow
  • Tall (hierarchical) vs. flat (more democratic and productive) bureaucratic structures
structural functionalist perspective on work and unemployment
Structural Functionalist Perspective on Work and Unemployment
  • One of most basic social institutions
  • Provides social interaction, social solidarity and cohesion in society
  • Stratification and hierarchy in workforce both natural and normal
  • Unemployment is a dysfunction
conflict and feminist perspective
Conflict and Feminist Perspective
  • Source of class conflict
  • Bourgeoisie want more labour for less money and proletariat want more pay for less work
  • An inherent contradiction in capitalism system
  • Workforce is patriarchal: women make less
  • Problem of the “reserve army of labour”
    • Unemployment keeps wages low
    • Women are exploited for their unpaid labour
symbolic interactionist and social constructionist views
Symbolic Interactionist and Social Constructionist Views
  • Work is a major source of identity
  • Also source of status and recognition
  • Social Constructionist: The workforce, work relations, and how people think about work constantly evolving
social problems linked to work and unemployment
Social Problems Linked to Work and Unemployment
  • Gender discrimination
  • Racial and ethnic discrimination
  • Inequality
  • Work-family problems
  • Alienation
vulnerable populations
Vulnerable Populations
  • Sex workers
  • Child labourers
  • Discriminatory unemployment
    • Due to discrimination because of ethnicity or gender
  • Structural unemployment
    • Due to socio-economic factors
unemployment cont
Unemployment (cont.)

Unemployed increases with “downsizing” esp. during a recession

  • Rarely below 5%
  • Official statistics understate it (only a % of those still “actively seeking work”)
  • Does not include “discouraged workers”
  • Does not count part-time work
  • Some part-time work is involuntary
  • Higher for visible minorities and Native men and women
  • Higher for younger men and women
unemployment rates
Unemployment Rates
  • In Canada, official unemployment rate on Mar. 13 was 7.7%
  • U.S. was 8.1%
  • TD predicts will be 10% by end of the year
  • “There is no doubt that 2009 will go down in history as one of the most difficult economic years for Canadians” (Beata Caranci, TD's director of economic forecasting)
  • Globally, a new forecast by the U.N. predicts that more than 198 million people will be unemployed in 2009
work related health problems
Work-related Health Problems
  • Workplace safety
  • Work stress
  • Job insecurity
  • Exploitation
health consequences of unemployment
Health Consequences of Unemployment
  • Mortality
  • Substance Abuse
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Increased smoking rate and higher obesity
  • Increased risk of violence (esp. domestic)
  • Other effects
    • Spousal effects
    • Effects on children
  • Tepperman suggests more job training and education programs at the societal level and therapy (for discouraged workers) and networking at individual level.
  • However, when unemployment is structural and global, then structural changes are needed
  • For instance, U.N's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) suggests “ten million [green] jobs could be created by investing in restoring degraded forests, planting new trees, building forest trails and recreation areas” (, March 10 2009)
  • An example of a revolution promoting democratic structural change
  • The take (2004)
    • Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein
    • Produced by Barna-Alper productions and Klein Lewis Productions with the NFB and CBC
    • A video on the effects of economic collapse and globalization on work (and unemployment) in Argentina in 2001