State, Market and Work-life Balance: Canadian Employment and Labour Policies

5915 words (24 pages) Essay

18th May 2020 Employment Reference this

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Introduction

            The Work-Life Balance (WLB) time-use analysis is heavily influenced by my own multilayered identity as an international student and a Bangladeshi woman. My daily activities are very much a reflection of my time commitments as a student, committed member of my family, and close friend to my University aged circle of friends. The following time-use analysis will analyze my daily life during the 2018-2019-summer semester at York University, and will examine the various ways in which I utilize my time during the day. Considering that I do not actually work, insofar as I don’t have an actual job, I will be quantifying the time I spend studying for my University degree and attending class as “work.” My time during the day will be divided under the following three headings: work, leisure, and unpaid work. 

Theoretical framework

            My time-use analysis assignment will be guided by the theoretical paradigm of Feminist political economy, a school of thought I believe adequately addresses the unpaid roles women assume in providing for “social reproduction,” and which adequately captures the lived realities of immigrant women of colour in the global North.  The role I play within my closely-knit Bangladeshi Muslim family reflects what is described in academic Kate Bezanson’s “Feminism, Federalism and Families” as “unpaid work” women engage in which are critical to the functioning of capitalist society, and consist of “the daily and generational work that is needed in any society to ensure social, cultural, and economic survival” (Bezanson 171). Bezanson argues that “social reproduction” is often engaged in by women, and involves “daily and generational work” which is necessary within society “to ensure social, cultural, and economic survival” (Bezanson 171). Women play an integral role within the household, and within the context of capitalist industrial societies, Bezanson suggests that “the work of social reproduction is often classed, gendered, and racialized,” and that women are asymmetrically involved in daily activities classified as “social reproduction” since, “whether paid or unpaid” are generally reserved for “those in structurally unequal social and economic positions” (Bezanson 172). 

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            As a young Bangladeshi woman, I felt that Bezanson’s insights resonated with me, and that during a given week in the 2018-2019-summer semester at York University, my own measures of WLB reflected many of the insights of other feminist political economists who seek to analyze the gendered nature of “social reproduction.” Another theoretical insight I acquired through my research of WLB and “social reproduction” was my own unique position within the international capitalist system, as a Bangladeshi woman from the global South who has ventured to Canada to pursue higher education. As I observed from the literature, my own experience can be characterized as that of a “migrant,” since I do hope to eventually settle in Canada following completion of my degree, and I hope to analyze the experiences and concerns of immigrant women of colour in Canada, and the unique WLB concerns they have as well.

Methodology

            In order to quantify my WLB I have chosen to analyze my daily activities during the course of seven days, from July 8th, 2019 to July 14th, 2019. The Excel spreadsheet table in which I tabulated this data is attached at the end of this analysis. I entered time during the day in thirty-minute increments on the y-axis, and the days of the week on the x-axis. I then input what activities I was performing during those time slots, and colour coded each cell as follows: green for leisure, red for paid work, yellow for unpaid work. Although I have chosen to classify my academic activities as paid work, for the sake of analysis, I will be analyzing them as a form of “social reproduction.” I just wanted to be able to disaggregate my academic activities from other forms of “unpaid work” in order to analyze these two forms of “social reproduction” in isolation.

Results

            According to my results over the seven day period from July 8th, 2019 to July 14th, 2019, I divided my time as follows: 38% on work (commuting to class, attending class, studying for class, studying for GMAT), 34% on leisurely activities (excluding sleep), and 28% on unpaid work, which I conceptualized through the aid of the relevant academic literature as “social reproduction (interacting/consoling family members, volunteering with Toronto Islamic Centre, laundry).

A glaring concern of mine which emerged as I surveyed my time-use data is that I spend 66% of the week on activities that are non-leisurely in nature, a reality which is undoubtedly unique to my own experiences as a female Bangladeshi international student living away from home, but which are common to many women, and particularly women of colour within Canada. This reality – the dearth of leisure time faced by many women of colour within Canada – played a large role in how I interpreted my results through the literature concerning “social reproduction” and work-life balance. The gendered realities, which impact work-life balance considerations will thus factor heavily in my analysis, and influence potential public policy strategies, I will explore to alleviate these tensions.

Analysis

            According to the OECD “Better Life Index,” the ability to enhance one’s WLB is characterized by a “challenge that all workers face” within industrial capitalist countries (OECD Better Life Index 1). Within the OECD’s “Better Life Index,” Canada was ranked 31 out of 40 countries in terms of WLB, and based upon my own experiences analyzing my time-use during a week; it becomes easier to see why, particularly for women, and especially for women of colour. The authors contend that the ability of the Canadian state to secure higher levels of WLB for their citizens is contingent upon the government “encouraging supportive and flexible working practices” (OECD Better Life Index 9). A key variable in increasing individuals’ WLB according to the OECD is decreasing the amount of time one spends at work: “Evidence suggests that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety and increase stress” (OECD Better Life Index 9).

            When analyzed through the theoretical lens of Feminist political economy, it becomes apparent from my WLB results that I expend considerable time comforting and consoling members of my family, a form of unpaid “work” critical in the processes of “social reproduction.” As highlighted by sociologist Susan Ferguson in the article “Canadian Contributions to Social Reproduction Feminism, Race and Embodied Labour,” “social reproduction” encompasses the unpaid work that individuals engage in which are instrumental in perpetuating the capitalist economy: “insofar as people work to fulfill their needs, they are consciously and actively creating households, the economy – in short, the social world” (Ferguson 49). The role of family in the processes of “social reproduction” are crucial for feminist political economists, and their observations are particularly relevant in the context of the conservative South Asian Muslim culture which pervades Bangladesh.

In the article “The Social Functions of the Family,” sociologist Ionut Anastasiu suggests that the familial unit is a “social institution” which is “universal in character” (Anastasiu 36). Cooperation for Anastasiu is an invaluable function within traditional societies, an observation which is particularly relevant to my own conservative Muslim Bangladeshi family, which are tightly knit. Traditional families, according to Anastasiu, aim to “satisfy the basic needs of its members, which consist mainly in food, housing, health and comfort in general” (Anatasiu 36).

   My entire family resides in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and my grandmother recently passed away. She was very close to my mother since my grandfather had passed away when she was very young, and she was the sole provider for a family of six children. My mother had raised me to be very attentive to the needs of our family members, which consists of my father, two brothers, and sister, as well as aunts and uncles and cousins which reside very close in the same village. In this regard, Bangladeshi culture’s emphasis upon the family mirrors Anatasius observation that “affection, protection and emotional support” are critical, and my daily videocalls to my mother and sister are reflective of the role emotional support plays within our culture. Although I cannot see my mother and sister, videocalls permit me to console them and comfort them, and is a form of “social reproduction” that constitutes unpaid work. There is a heavily gendered element to “unpaid work,” and women, particularly women of colour from traditional societies, engage in these activities to sustain themselves and their families.

  In conformity with my conservative Muslim upbringing, I attend the Toronto Islamic Centre twice a week to volunteer. I partake in this form of “unpaid work” out of a sense of personal duty to members of my community, a conviction that will continue when I eventually choose to enter the labour market. While at the Toronto Islamic Centre, I assist with cleaning, daycare activities, and cooking food, activities which assist the community centre’s managers and administrators and which assist the larger Muslim community of Toronto. The desire to contribute to one’s religious community is not unique to those of the Islamic faith, and is a reality among many immigrant women in Canada who hail from traditional societies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In the “Handbook on the International Political Economy of Gender,” it is observed that “social reproduction includes more than just domestic labour” and encompasses a wide raft of activities and responsibilities (Elias 43). This insight is critical in understanding the role that community interaction plays within the context of “social reproduction,” but also how the desire to obtain higher education is a form of “unpaid work” as well.

            In the article “From gender-not-an-issue to gender is the issue: the educational and migration pathways of middle-class women moving from urban Bangladesh to Britain,” I found sociologist Rifat Mahbub’s insights concerning the role of Bangladeshi women studying and settling abroad compelling and reflective of the time I invest in my own undergraduate education and GMAT study sessions. Mahbub suggests that many Bangladeshi women choose to study abroad as a mechanism of “middle-class social reproduction,” a premise I can identify with considering that my motivations for pursuing a degree in Canada, as well as a graduate education, are reflective of the wishes of my conservative Bangladeshi family. Although I classified the hours I spend devoted to my education as “work,” I believe that it is aptly conceptualized through the lens of “social reproduction,” and is a key arena in which my own work-life balance is compromised. 

  Mahbub analyzes the role of higher education for Bangladeshi women as a form of “academic capital,” and that “elite academic capital” refers to those particular degrees which are “accorded the highest value in the national (Bangladeshi) context” (Mahbub 880). Degrees, which are believed to bestow “elite academic capital,” according to Mahbub, are those, which possess “typically high levels of transferability (i.e. they were more likely to be valued and recognized) in the academic and/or job markets of more ‘developed’ countries” (Mahbub 880). My own journey to Canada to study Work and Labour Studies at York University was heavily informed by the wishes of my parents. As observed by sociologist Maureen C. Pagaduan in the book “Poverty, Gender and Migration,” the impetus for women migrating abroad is often “not so much for individual interests as for the family’s collective welfare and solidarity” (Arya 78). These insights are directly applicable to my own journey to Canada, which was influenced by my parents who suggested that I would be able to attract a better suitor for marriage, while also possibly creating an opportunity for them to migrate as well.

The time and energy I devote to my academic activities, as well as my familial and community responsibilities, detract immensely from my ability to engage in other forms of leisure, a reality I can only imagine will become more acute when I become married and enter the labour market. As a woman of colour in Canada, my role in “social reproduction” diminishes my leisure time, and do sociologists within the academic literature address a persistent problem. As noted by sociologist Tracy-Ann Johnson-Myers in the book “The Mixed Member Proportional System: Providing Greater Representation for Women?” flexible working hours can provide a panacea for work-life balance difficulties, since it permits both women and men “to better manage work and family obligations” more effectively (Johnson-Myers 63). A lack of flexible working arrangements are particularly onerous for women, and mothers in particular, since women already “face many challenges” in their daily lives, and “inflexible working hours only serve to maintain barriers that have prevented them from entering or remaining in the workplace after having children” (Johnson-Myers 63). My own WLB time-use analysis, which witnessed me expending considerable time with my family and within my community, is evocative of the reality that policy permitting greater flexibility in working hours for women can improve their WLB measures, with a corresponding increase in leisure time.

In the book “Cases in Gender & Diversity in Organizations,” academic Alison M. Konrad observes that work-life balance struggles are a persistent irritant in the lives of working women. She observes how with the entry of women in the labour market, “families could no longer assume that mothers would be present to fulfill children’s needs as they arose” (Konrad 87). The role women play as a neoliberal heavily circumscribes mothers –but also other functions, such as community members, and as loving sisters and mothers – influenced capitalist state, which circumscribes their ability to engage in “social reproduction.” It is incumbent upon the Federal Canadian government, and also private organizations themselves, to provide for greater work-life flexibility benefit which Konrad notes as “having positive effects on employees” (Konrad 87). Citing numerous separate studies of flexible working arrangements, Konrad highlights how such schedules “showed positive effects on productivity, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with work scheduling, as well as reduced absenteeism” while studies of “compressed workweeks” displayed that there were “positive effects on supervisory performance ratings, job satisfaction, and satisfaction with the work schedule” (Konrad 87). Governments would be wise to implement policies, which can improve work-life balance for all individuals, but women in particular, due to their role in sustaining communities and society in general.

Conclusion

            In summary, the foregoing WLB time-analysis has provided me with a wealth of wisdom regarding the asymmetries in my own life between leisure, work, and unpaid work, and how my own multilayered identity facilitates these realities. As an immigrant to Canada who wishes to pursue graduate education to enhance both the prestige and material comfort of my family, I expend a considerable time on “work” through attending courses at York University, studying for my undergraduate degree, and studying for the GMAT so that I may attend graduate school. My status as Muslim immigrant woman has inspired me to regularly volunteer at the Toronto Islamic Centre, a form of unpaid work I feel is necessary to assist members of my own community, while my regular videocalls to my mother and sister is another form of unpaid work which I feel is a moral duty.

 My WLB time-use analysis reinforced in my mind how my own responsibilities in the processes of social reproduction will only increase when I enter the work force, and particularly when I have a family. Full-time working hours will heavily detract from my ability to care for my husband, children, while also devoting time to my family in Bangladesh, and within my community. The burdens of family and community are a reality for women of all ethnicities, but from my own time-use analysis and survey of the literature, I can appreciate how it is particularly acute for women of colour in Canada. The Canadian government would be wise to implement flexible working arrangements with greater vigour to address the realities which women of colour such as myself face, given the rapidly burgeoning profile of immigrant groups from Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Latin America. Enhancing measures of WLB for these women do not only provide a benefit to their families and communities through the mechanisms of “social reproduction,” it is a net benefit to Canadian society at a broader level as well.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

8:00

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

Wake up, shower, make breakfast

8:30

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

Eat Breakfast

9:00

Morning Run

Laundry

Morning Run

Laundry

Morning Run

Morning Run

Morning Run

9:30

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Laundry

Leave for library

Laundry

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Morning Run

Morning Run

10:00

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Laundry

Study for GMAT

Laundry

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Exercise at University gym

Exercise at University gym

10:30

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Laundry

Study for GMAT

Laundry

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Exercise at University gym

Exercise at University gym

11:00

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Begin cooking lunch

Study for GMAT

Begin cooking lunch

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Exercise at University gym

Exercise at University gym

11:30

Volunteer at Toronto Islamic Centre

Eat lunch

Study for GMAT

Eat lunch

gardening

Exercise at University gym

Exercise at University gym

12:00

Lunch Break

gardening

Study for GMAT

gardening

Lunch Break

Run home

Run home

12:30

Lunch Break

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Study for GMAT

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Lunch Break

Cook Lunch

Cook Lunch

1:00

Lunch Break

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Have lunch in York Lanes with friends

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Lunch Break

Eat Lunch

Eat Lunch

1:30

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Review notes for SOSC 3982 and THEA 2060

Have lunch in York Lanes with friends

Review notes for SOSC 3982 and THEA 2060

Leave for library

Study for GMAT

Gardening

2:00

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Leave for class

Have lunch in York Lanes with friends

Leave for class

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Study for GMAT

Gardening

2:30

Do readings for SOSC 3982

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for THEA 2060

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Study for GMAT

Videocall family in Bangladesh

3:00

Do readings for SOSC 3982

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for THEA 2061

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Study for GMAT

Videocall with family in Bangladesh

3:30

Do readings for SOSC 3982

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for THEA 2062

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Study for GMAT

Videocall family in Bangladesh

4:00

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Do readings for THEA 2063

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Study for GMAT

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Videocall family in Bangladesh

4:30

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Leave for home

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Study for GMAT

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Meet with friends at friend’s apartment

5:00

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Gardening

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Study for GMAT

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Meet with friends at friend’s apartment

5:30

Gardening

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

SOSC 3982: Work Life Balance class

Study for GMAT

Gardening

Meet with friends at friend’s apartment

6:00

Cook Dinner

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Commute home

Gardening

Meet with friends at friend’s apartment

6:30

Eat Dinner

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Cook Dinner

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Cook Dinner with friends

7:00

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Cook Dinner

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Eat Dinner

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Cook Dinner with friends

7:30

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Eat Dinner

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Do readings for SOSC 3982

Eat Dinner with friends

8:00

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Cook Dinner

Eat Dinner with friends

8:30

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Eat Dinner

Clean apartment

9:00

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Do readings for THEA 2060

Do dishes

9:30

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Mother in Bangladesh

Do readings for THEA 2060

Do dishes

10:00

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

Do readings for THEA 2060

Go to sleep

10:30

Study for GMAT

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

THEA 2060 Voice and Speech class

Study for GMAT

Do readings for THEA 2060

Go to sleep

11:00

Go to sleep

Commute home

Videocall Sister in Bangladesh

Commute home

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

11:30

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

Go to sleep

 

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