Vanishing Jobs: Canada's Changing Workplaces


223 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55028-482-7
DDC 331.13'7971




Reviewed by Dave Bennett

David Bennett is the national director of the Department of Workplace Health, Safety and Environment at the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa.


The case studies that make up this book were drawn from a very wide
variety of industrial sectors in Nova Scotia. The generally pro-union
authors detect a number of trends among the workplaces examined:
“delayering,” mainly at the expense of middle management; a huge
growth in the proportion of low-paid “contingent” workers;
decentralization of workplace decision-making, or worker empowerment;
and flexibility in the form of multiskilled and multitasked work, which
used to be known in union circles as cross-trading. Particularly
striking among the book’s findings are, first, that individual
surveillance of workers and the electronic pacing of work are often
counterproductive and, second, that most employers do not see
Unemployment Insurance and social assistance as barriers to economic
growth and job creation. Overall, the quality of the case studies is
extremely high, though a few are too brief to be of much value.

The authors make a number of policy prescriptions based on their
observations. Most relate to the “soft technology of workplace
organization” and the social relations of production. The fact
remains, however, that changes within workplaces cannot really resolve
the larger problem: lack of jobs. At the level of provincial and
national policy, the authors’ prescriptions for reducing unemployment
are sketchy and not always convincing. Nevertheless, their book as a
whole offers a perceptive analysis of the state of Canadian industry.


Osberg, Lars, Fred Wien, and Jan Grude., “Vanishing Jobs: Canada's Changing Workplaces,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 16, 2024,