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This project explores the impacts of precarity in the context of the non-profit social services sector (NPSS), seeking to answer questions concerning how precarity operates within this unique sector, how those in the sector understand and experience precarity, and promising practices that might provide solutions to this growing dilemma. Research clearly indicates that the downloading of services from government to the community or NPSS has had negative implications for both users of these services and workers in the sector including a significant increase in precarious forms of employment.

The project employed a qualitative case study methodology, with a special emphasis on immigrant community services which have a reputation as a set of employers engaged in precarious employment practices, often hiring from the ranks of those they serve, who in turn provide services to impoverished immigrants involved in precarious employment. Specifically, 3 study sites were surveyed by the research team, selected based on their capacity to provide telling examples of precarious employment, its tensions and its relationship to poverty. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were undertaken resulting in the completion of 56 in depth interviews. Those interviewed included directors, managers, front-line workers and union representatives where possible. The data analysis drew on grounded theory within a critical framing. The analysis enabled us to uncover how precatity operates within the sector at three levels, creating organizational instability, employment precarity and fostering greater precariousness with the clients and in communities served by non-profit service providers.


Baines, D. (2016). Moral projects and compromise resistance: Resisting uncaring in nonprofit care work. Studies in Political Economy, 97(2), 124-142. [Read]

Baines, D. (Forthcoming). Care and Control in Long Term Care Work. In Evans, B. and McBride, S. (Eds.), Austerity: The Lived Experience. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. [Read]

Baines, D., & Cunningham, I. (Forthcoming). How Could Management Let This Happen? Gender, Participation, and Industrial Action in the Nonprofit Sector. Economic and Industrial Democracy. [Read]

Baines, D., Cunningham, I., Campey, J., & Shields, J. (2014) Not Profiting From Precarity: The Work of Non-Profit Service Delivery and the Creation of Precariousness. Just Labour, 22, 74-93. [Read]

Baines, D., Cunningham, I., & Shields, J. (2017). Filling the Gaps with Unpaid, Formal and Coerced Work in the Nonprofit Sector. Critical Social Policy. [Read]

Cunningham, I., Baines, D., & Shields, J. (Forthcoming). Austerity, Precarity and Workers' Voice: Is representation happening for the precarious workforce in non-union, community services? In S. Procyk, W. Lewchuk & J. Shields (Eds.), Precarious Employment: Causes, Consequences and Remedies. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing. [Read]

Cunningham, I., Baines, D., & Shields, J. (Forthcoming). You've Just Cursed Us: Precarity, Austerity and Worker Participation in the Nonprofit Social Services. Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations

Cunningham, I., Baines, D., Shields, J., & Lewchuk, W. (2016). Austerity policies,‘precarity’ and the nonprofit workforce: A comparative study of UK and Canada. Journal of Industrial Relations, 58(4), 455-472. [Read]

Shields, J. (2014). Constructing and 'Liberating' Temporariness in the Canadian Nonprofit Sector: Neoliberalism and Nonprofit Service Providers. In R. Latham, V. Preston & L. Vosko (Eds.), Liberating Temporariness? Migration, Work and Citizenship in and Age of Insecurity (pp. 255-281). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press. [Read]

Shields, J., Baines, D. & Cunningham, I. (Forthcoming). Precarious Undertakings: Serving Vulnerable Communities through Non-Profit Work. In S. Procyk, W. Lewchuk & J. Shields (Eds.), Precarious Employment: Causes, Consequences and Remedies. Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing. [Read]

Shields, J., Kelly, P., Park, S., Prier, N., & Fang, T. (2011). Profiling immigrant poverty in Canada: A 2006 census statistical portrait. Canadian Review of Social Policy, (65/66), 92. [Read]  


April 26-27, 2017 | University of Holguin, Cuba
Alternate Routes Conference - Social Inequality and Social Justice: North & South, North vs South
Precarious Undertakings: The Challenge of Serving Vulnerable Communities through Nonprofit Work
Presenters: John Shields, Donna Baines & Ian Cunningham

2015 | Auckland, New Zealand
AIRAANZ Annual Conference
Care and Control in Long Term Care Work
Presenter: Donna Baines

April 13-15, 2015 | Athens, Greece
International Labour Process Conference
We're all in it together' - Worker participation in voluntary social services during austerity
Presenters: Ian Cunningham, Donna Baines, John Shields and Wayne Lewchuk

October 2014 | McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Conference: Dissent and Resistance in the Workplace
Moral Projects and Compromise Resistance: Resisting Uncaring in Nonprofit Care Work.
Presenter: Donna Baines

February 5-7, 2014 | Melbourne, Australia
AIRAANZ Annual Conference
The state of nonprofit care work: Convergence under austerity?
Presenter: Donna Baines

October 30, 2013 | Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Consortium of Agencies Serving Internationally Trained Persons (CASIP) Board Dialogues
The Precarious Sector? Nonprofit Service Providers and the Challenge of Precarity
Presenter: John Shields

October 27, 2013 | Malton, Ontario, Canada
Temporary Job Agencies Panel
Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario
Presenter: John Shields