Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Disability, Underemployment and Social Change

Document type Thesis
Author Lee, Susan S.
Degree Ph.D., Humanities
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2014-01-10
Pages 223


Informed by the disciplines of disability studies and interpretive sociology, and using the social model of disability and the collective identity model, this dissertation pursues an investigation of underemployment. Underemployment, conceptualized as the underutilized skills and knowledge of the employed and unemployed, occurs at higher levels amongst disabled persons than among non-disabled people (Canada, 2009). Semi-structured interviews with 14 underemployed disabled people conducted, to investigate the experiences of disabled persons who worked in the fields of education, computer, healthcare, fitness, environment, travel, social work, government and non-government agencies. In addition, Canadian social policies were analyzed to address the research questions: 1) How do disabled workers understand and address experiences of underemployment? 2) How do organizations and social policies account for underemployment amongst disabled persons? 3) How can practices which acknowledge and enhance collective identity be used to address underemployment and advance the disability movement? 4) How can underemployment amongst disabled persons be addressed at the organizational level? The texts of these narratives and Canadian social policies were analyzed using a critical interpretative textual analysis approach. The analysis demonstrates the depths of the negative consequences of high levels of underemployment resulting from structural, environmental and attitudinal barriers. Such consequences include lack of opportunities for recognition, compensation, promotion, accommodations, and career fulfillment, as well as poor mental, physical, emotional and social health. This research study is unique as it reveals the struggles that disabled persons experienced in work contexts, their narratives of resistance, and their recommendations for socio-political change to build more inclusive work environments