Through the Ups and Downs: Workers' and Families' Experiences with Seasonal Resource Employment in a Prairie Province
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Subject to both seasonal patterns and fluctuating market conditions, workers in resource-based industries routinely experience employment volatility as workloads ebb and flow through peak and off-seasons and through ‘boom’ and ‘bust’ periods. Employment volatility can affect workers’ psychological and physical health, with attendant impacts on families. In small or rural communities, impacted workers and their families also may not have access to relevant or needed supports. Seasonal work in general has received limited attention in academic literature, and while there is a body of research focusing on resources employment, it is mostly based in an Australian context. Internationally, research on social, psychosocial, and economic effects of resource work has been identified as relatively limited. There is also a noted lack of research on workers’ perceptions of resource work. As well, impacts of this form of employment on families appears to be an area of study in need of further development. Accompanying limited knowledge on impacts of resource employment, there appears to be even less research nationally and internationally on programs, services, and supports for resource workers and their families. As a Canadian province heavily dependent on resource industries, there are no known studies of resource-based employment in Saskatchewan that incorporate an analytical focus on the issues associated with this type of seasonal work from the perspectives of workers and their families. Studies based in Saskatchewan have thus far largely maintained a focus exclusively on agriculture and are rooted in twentieth century experiences, with many decades having passed since participants’ experiences were originally documented. Through an examination of workers' and families' experiences, this study sought to identify the salient factors impacting on individuals and households with involvement in resource industries. The study also investigated the various ways in which workers and families perceived and responded to emerging issues in natural resources employment. Based on these findings, the study proposes recommendations for relevant programs and services for impacted workers and families while also raising important policy implications. Recruitment for this study was specific to workers and families with involvement in seasonal resource sectors in Saskatchewan, Canada. A qualitative case study methodology was employed to explore the experiences and impacts of resource work on workers and families in this understudied jurisdiction with a view to improving access to and/or guiding development of relevant programs and supports. Twenty-three semi-structured interviews were conducted with individuals with involvement in seasonal resource-based employment (e.g. agriculture, energy, forestry and/or mining), either directly as a worker or indirectly as a family member of a worker with at least six months’ experience in a natural resources sector in Saskatchewan. Findings identified workers’ and families’ encounters with compounding factors. Financial precarity, temporal sacrifices and trade-offs, and work cultures were found to be prevalent forces acting upon workers and their households. Meanwhile, forging and maintaining social connections and affinity to their selected industry/industries helped workers and families manage the myriad demands they faced. At the same time, perceptions on availability of alternative options could effectively tether workers to resource industries. The findings generated from the study offer a roadmap for improving access to, and guiding the design or enhancement of, relevant programs, policies, and supports for impacted workers and families.
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Nicole Carleton (2023). Through the Ups and Downs: Workers' and Families' Experiences with Seasonal Resource Employment in a Prairie Province. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/19255