Labour Studies Index

Updated: 2022-05-16

Precarious Work in Montreal: Women, Urban Space, and Time

Document type Thesis
Author Teeple Hopkins, Carmen
Degree Ph.D., Geography
Publisher University of Toronto; Toronto
Date 2016
Pages 213 pages


This dissertation examines the impact of precarious work on women in Montreal. Precariousness is increasingly common in Quebec, where women are overrepresented in part-time, temporary, and self-employed work. Based on three years of fieldwork, the thesis argues that while many women experience precariousness in the labour market, they do not experience it in the same ways. The neighbourhoods in which women live significantly shape their lives at work and home. Building critically on the literature on precariousness and social class, my research theorizes precarious workers as members of the working class, not as a marginalized social class outside it. Specifically, the dissertation asks how urban space influences precarious work and how time pressures impact experiences of work and home. First, while noting that precarious workers across industries (e.g. art, teaching, service) face housing pressures similar to those experienced by other members of the working class, the research shows that precarious women workers living in central neighbourhoods are especially at risk of being displaced by the middle-class. Second, the project brings important attention to paid and unpaid domestic work. Most research in the field of “time-use” at work focuses on sectors outside the home, even though women have long performed unwaged housework and many women continue to undertake paid employment or self-employment in the home. The dissertation demonstrates the ways in which women’s workloads have increased in the sphere of the home, diminishing their physical health and rendering them more precarious. Third, with reference to women who continue to perform large amounts of unpaid work, the research considers the relevance of historical and contemporary debates around the relationship between paid and unpaid labour, illustrating how women’s wages are negatively impacted by this unpaid work. This dissertation brings together the social dimensions of gender, race, social class, and urban space. In so doing, the project contributes a multi-scalar analysis to antiracist feminist political economy and reaffirms the importance of social class within feminist geography. Bridging these two broader traditions – political economy and economic geography – the project provides a critical framework for understanding the specificities of precarious work for women in Montreal.