Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Re-Inscribing Gender Relations through Employment-Related Geographical Mobility: The Case of Newfoundland Youth in Resource Extraction

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Re-Inscribing Gender Relations through Employment-Related Geographical Mobility: The Case of Newfoundland Youth in Resource Extraction

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The gendered nature of rural youth migration is well established both in Canada (Corbett, 2007a, b, c; Norman and Power, 2015; Ommer, 2007) and in other places (Kenway et al., 2006; Lowe, 2015; Ni Laoire, 2001, 2011), with rural young men being more likely to stay on in their communities, while young women are more likely to leave for education and to pursue different kinds of employment opportunities (Corbett 2007b, Cloke and Little, 1997, Lowe, 2015, Rye, 2006; Thissen et al., 2010). In this paper, we tell a somewhat different story of young people's mobilities--one that focuses on how place-specific gender relations enable the employment-related geographical mobilities (ERGMs) of rural young men in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. ERGM encompasses a spectrum of mobility practices related to employment, and their spatial and temporal dimensions, that includes outmigration as well as long commutes to and from work, travelling to remote work locations for extended periods of time and so on (Newhook et al., 2011). Recent public and policy discussions on the (primarily economic) viability of rural communities in the province have focused on the interrelated impacts of young people's ERGMs (e.g., youth outmigration, inter- and intra-provincial labour mobility), the aging demographic structure of the province's population, and a trend toward rural depopulation and expanded urban growth (Simms and Greenwood, 2015). Power (2017) has argued that public and media discourse has attributed rural decline largely to young people's outmigration and their poor decision-making in relation to education and training. This interpretation ignores the complexity and range of mobility practices among rural young people in the province. While outmigration and labour mobility are not new phenomena, a shift in the province's economy from a reliance on wild fisheries to resource extraction in the oil and gas, construction and mining sectors is shaping current patterns of intra- and inter-provincial workforce mobility. As elsewhere, employment in resource extraction remains male-dominated, despite diversity initiatives aimed at attracting women to the industry. Focusing specifically on women's and men's employment and related mobility practices that are differently positioned or orientated (Ahmed, 2006) in relation to resource extraction, we examine how place-specific gender relations shape the mobility experiences of young people at the same time that they are reproduced through mobility. We argue that these gendered mobilities have inequitable consequences for youth, where place-specific gender power relations are reproduced through mobility, privileging some while oppressing others Taking a spatialized sociological approach (Farrugia et al., 2014), we argue that by shedding insight on the complex intersections between place, gender and ERGM, this research has important implications for creating more equitable gender relations among young people living in rural contexts.

In order to make this argument, we first review the youth studies literature on gender and outmigration, and make the case for taking a spatialized approach to the relationship between gender and young people's ERGMs. Next, we describe the two research projects, the Rural Youth and Recovery project and the Apprenticeship, Youth and Mobility project, which inform our findings. This description is followed by a brief account of the recent economic and industrial restructuring of the provincial economy from a reliance on wild fisheries to increased dependency on oil, gas, and mining industries, as well as the government initiatives supporting this shift such as efforts aimed at recruitment and retention of young women to the sector. We then present the ERGM experiences of the youth in the studies, focusing on how women's and men's mobility experiences are structured in relation to each other, which produces different orientations to employment in resource extraction. …

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