Labour Studies

Major partnership receives funding to study how British Columbians are impacted by precarity, develop solutions for post-COVID era

June 21, 2021

(Vancouver) A six-year initiative to study the impacts of precarious work on the lives of British Columbians kicks off today, with the announcement of a $2.5 million Partnership Grant awarded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

Understanding Precarity in BC (UP-BC) is jointly led by Kendra Strauss, Director of SFU’s Labour Studies Program and the Morgan Centre for Labour Research, and Iglika Ivanova, Senior Economist and Public Interest Researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC Office (CCPA-BC). They will work closely with a team that includes 39 academic researchers, four BC universities, and 26 community partners with deep connection to populations most impacted by precarity.

“The pandemic has shed light on the rise of unstable, short-term jobs without benefits in Canada, and the overall shift toward precarious work,” says Strauss. “We know that racialized communities, Indigenous people, women, low-income groups and younger workers are most likely to experience precarity. The diverse range of partners centrally involved in this project means their experiences and voices will be at the heart of our work.”

“There is a lot we don’t know about precarious work in BC, but it likely contributes to inequality and polarization,” says Ivanova. “This project will look at how precarious work impacts people’s lives — not just at work, but in the related insecurity and hardship they experience. We want to better understand the consequences of widespread precarity for the wellbeing of our province so we can develop effective, evidence-based solutions to tackle it.” 

A centrepiece of the partnership’s research agenda is a biennial province-wide BC Precarity Survey. The survey will paint a detailed picture of the extent and nature of precarious work across all regions of the province. The team has already carried out the first survey, with results to be released in the coming months. 

The team’s ultimate goal is to reduce systemic inequalities and enhance the economic security of British Columbians. “This project is designed not just to understand precarious work,” says Strauss. “We also want to inform the public conversation about a just and equitable recovery from COVID-19 and contribute policy solutions.” 

Institutional Strategic Awards (ISA) collaborated with Strauss, Ivanova and their team on this successful SSHRC application. ISA works collaboratively with units across SFU to provide expertise, resources and professional services for large-scale, complex and institutional research funding proposals and research award nominations. For more information on the support offered by the ISA, please visit their website or contact