Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

In the Shadows: Exploring the Notion of "Community" for Temporary Foreign Workers in a Boomtown

Document type Article
Author Taylor, Alison
Author Foster, Jason
Journal Canadian Journal of Sociology
Volume 38
Date 2013
Pages 167-190


The rapid expansion of the oil sands in northern Alberta in the early 21st century led to the use of significant numbers of temporary foreign workers. These foreign workers became a part of the region’s so-called “shadow population.” This paper examines how the presence of foreign workers affects conceptions of community and social cohesion through the experiences of foreign workers employed in oil sands construction. The study finds foreign workers are excluded from the life of the community due to their differential exclusion, vulnerable and precarious connection to the labour market, experiences of discrimination, and conflicted transnational community identities. The paper discusses the shortcomings of community and social cohesion approaches in addressing temporary foreign workers and considers the policy limitations of a widespread temporary foreign worker program.