Monday, 2 October 2017

Working? The new book by Stephen McBride on Employment Policy in Canada

Stephen McBride (2017) Working? Employment Policy in Canada. Rock's Mills Press.

Since the economic crisis 2007/2008 the signs of discontent have multiplied. Incumbent governments have been defeated and internationally we have witnessed what might be called a populist revolt, including the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote. These political moments reflect the alienation of large numbers of people, who feel left behind economically, largely because of their experiences in dysfunctional labour markets.

Focusing on Canada, and exploring the experience of work in today’s labour market, this book poses the question: How did we get here? What role has policy played? And to what extent are Canadians “locked” into a given path?

Award-winning academic Stephen McBride, whose expertise spans economics, policy, globalization, and labour studies, is an expansive thinker and a clear writer. McBride considers some relevant history since World War II: the changing winds of political thought; the institutional contours of employment policy; and the interconnection between the social and the economic as it influences our thinking about work. Drawing on the latest and most reliable data, he then sketches out the evolution of Canadian employment policy since the 1970s. Chapters look at education and training, immigration and migrant labour, employment regulations and benefits, and the decline of unions.  

In a brilliant and provocative summary, McBride returns to his original question: is “here” where we are stuck? A strong middle-class emerged in the aftermath of World War II, with virtually full employment. Those conditions are gone, replaced by a global world of infinite complexity. But McBride is not convinced that we need to remain passive, allowing workers' security to be further eroded. He describes some policy alternatives that would enable the prioritization of national obligations to citizens over international obligations to capital.