Professionals' Changing Roles in an Advanced Capitalist Knowledge Economy

Tuesday May 30 10:30 am to 12:00 pm
KHS 134

Session Code: WPO7
Session Format: Regular session
Session Language: English
Research Cluster Affiliation: Work, Professions and Occupations
Session Categories: Regular Session

Professional occupations requiring specialized knowledge appear to have been growing in recent decades, but skill underutilization may also have been increasing among professional employees as well as in the Canadian labour force more generally (Livingstone 2009, 2014). This session will explore the changing occupational class structure in Canada and associated general changes in skill use, with a special focus on the workplace power and knowledge utilization of professionals. Primary evidence will be drawn from the SSHRC project 'Changing Workplaces in a Knowledge Economy: Occupational Class Structure, Skill Use and the Place of Professions in Canada', including a 1982-2016 series of national surveys of the employed labour force as well as strategic case studies of engineers and nurses. Recognition and reward of the specialized knowledge of professionals will be examined in relation to variations in working conditions. Guidelines for workplace and training reform will be suggested. Related papers are welcome. References Livingstone, D. W. (ed.) (2009). Education and jobs: Exploring the gaps. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Livingstone, D. W. “Interrogating Professional Power and Recognition of Specialized Knowledge: A Class Analysis” European Journal for Research on the Education and Learning of Adults. 5, 1 (2014): 13-29. Tags: Canadian Sociology, Work And Professions

Organizer: D.W. Livingstone, OISE, University of Toronto; Chair: D.W. Livingstone, OISE, University of Toronto; Discussant: Vivian Shalla, University of Guelph


D.W. Livingstone, OISE, University of Toronto; Brendan Watts, University of Western Ontario

The Changing Employment Class Structure and the Pivotal Role of Professional Employees in a “Knowledge Economy”: Canada, 1982-2016

This paper analyzes the changing character of the employment class structure in emergent “knowledge economies” on the basis of five national surveys in Canada during the 1982-2016 period. Professional occupations are found to be an increasing proportion of the labour force. But prior research has conflated four distinct class positions of professionals: professional employers; self-employed professionals; professional managers; and professional employees (Livingstone 2014). The changing general composition of professional and other occupations, of the general employment class structure and of professional classes within the employment class structure are all estimated. The most notable changes over this period are the growth of managerial classes, decline of traditional working classes and the growth of non-managerial professional employees. Professional employees may play a pivotal role in the further development of “knowledge economies”. The latter part of the paper examines their changing working conditions and economic attitudes in comparison with those in other employment classes. Some implications of these findings are suggested.

Tracey Adams, University of Western Ontario

Professions, Hybrid Professionalism and Internal Stratification

Traditionally, professions have been seen to possess considerable internal unity and homogeneity (Larson 1977); however research has identified emerging divisions within professions across organizational roles and demographic characteristics (Freidson 1994; Coburn et al., 1997; Noorderaaf 2013).  This paper explores internal stratification and segmentation within professions through a case study of the engineering profession in Canada.  It expands on previous research in this area by exploring internal class differences within the engineering profession, and the impact of these differences on professional attitudes and goals.  Do professional managers have a different outlook than rank and file members of professions?  Or is the major divide between professional owners and employees?  Drawing on the Canadian Workplaces in the Knowledge Economy (CWKE) survey of Canadian engineers, I explore differences among engineers in their attitudes to a range of professional issues and concerns by organizational position, class, gender, and race. These data promise to shed new light on stratification within Canadian professions, and their potential impact.

Peter Sawchuk, University of Toronto

Professions, On-the-Job Learning and Contested Hybridization: Evidence on Ontario Nurses

While the role of professional, on-the-job knowledge practices in the definition and re-definition of professional occupations continues to be debated (cf. Saks 2016; Adams 2015; Svarc 2016; Evetts, 2014; Gorman and Sandefur 2011), understanding of the effects of class dynamics within the labour (and learning) process itself remains under-realized. Drawing on preliminary (interview and survey) data from the Changing Workplaces in the Knowledge Economy (CWKE: 2016-2018) project, I examine the ways in which Ontario Nurses perceive significant changes in the way their work is organized. Not only do nurses raise important concerns over the types of labour processes (health care delivery models) under which they work, but implicated in this are changes to the learning they do on-the-job, the forms of knowledge intensification they experience, and subsequently the changing nature of nursing professional knowledge itself. As a result, it seems appropriate to speak of a distinct example of hybridization involving (contested) normalization of managerial principles (Noordegraaf 2015) in the nursing profession.