FSC is seeking to engage with Canada’s research community to further develop the Canadian evidence base on a myriad of issues that implicate the quality of work. This invitation to submit an expression of intent aims to engage with Canadian researchers from a variety of disciplines to submit their initial ideas and concepts for research that could address these gaps.
The Future Skills Centre is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success and meeting the emerging talent needs of employers. As a pan-Canadian community, we bring together experts and organizations across sectors to rigorously identify, assess, and share innovative approaches to develop the skills and work environments to drive prosperity and inclusion.
We are rooted in the development of empirical knowledge and are committed to actively applying this knowledge to develop new programs and inform policy agendas. As we refine our research practice, we are increasingly looking to support diverse teams representing a variety of disciplines, equity groups, and collaborations across academic, community, policy, and private sector organizations. We are also intentional about supporting emerging researchers and those from marginalized groups.
The satisfaction that workers derive from their employment or working arrangement has been a long-running concern for employees and employers, researchers and policy makers. For workers, the sense of work quality affects decisions about whether to work, as well as how much effort to invest in roles they take on, and how their work contributes to their overall financial health. For firms, maximizing the returns from labour involves attracting, retaining, and leveraging human resources to enhance productivity. For policy makers, measuring quality of work provides a snapshot of societal health, as well as a sense of how well social and economic institutions are providing for a variety of populations.
Internationally, there is increasing recognition of the multidimensional aspects of work quality, beyond economic incentives — greater appreciation of factors such as job security/prospects, intensity and quality of work, ability to use skills and enjoy autonomy, as well as overall social environment. There’s also growing evidence about connections between quality of work and well-being.
As Canada continues to navigate paths towards recovering from the major impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is growing recognition, dialogue and awareness that work quality is a pressing issue for the functioning of the economy and the future of work in Canada. Prior to the pandemic, some of Canada’s fastest growing sectors also reported some of the lowest scores on various aspects of work quality, leading to job polarization. As of fall 2021, with an economic recovery beginning to emerge as public health restrictions are lifted, many of these sectors are now struggling to recruit workers, and initial evidence suggests that many of those who once took on low-quality work are transitioning into sectors and roles that are positioned to offer better quality of work based on a variety of factors.
The COVID-19 crisis also arose against a larger backdrop of change surrounding the nature of contracts around the provision of labour. Much has been written about the rise of gig work and its implications for the conditions under which workers are supplying labour in non-traditional arrangements. Despite these very real challenges, relatively little coordinated dialogue or policy innovation on issues related to the quality of work has taken place in Canada. As a result, there is an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the quality of work in the Canadian social system, particularly around a more holistic understanding of work quality in the context of other social safety net issues.
As noted above, the Future Skills Centre is a centre of research and collaboration with a mandate to identify, assess, and share innovative approaches to skills development and understand how work environments can generate inclusive prosperity. As a result, FSC would like to engage in research partnerships aimed at addressing key gaps in policy and practice that implicate quality of work issues in the Canadian context.
Our work is informed by a review of Canadian research as well as a myriad of international frameworks and standards that address various components of quality of work. In addition to monetary incentives, these concerns touch upon a variety of issues, including the security of employment (in terms of current and future prospects), the work environment (in terms of the quality of the working experience and the potential for using and applying skills), as well as issues of health safety and compatibility with household-level responsibilities.
- What is the connection between skills and quality of work? How do they relate to one another?
- How are skills related to other dimensions of quality of work? Which levers in the skills development ecosystem can be pulled to influence the quality of work?
- What are the trends around quality of work in Canada, and how has the pandemic influenced discussion around job quality? Where are the pain points in the economy and amongst various population groups as they relate to low or deteriorating quality of work? How much has this implicated issues of labour shortages in certain industries and sectors?
- How do other countries approach quality of work? What are different policy approaches, and how do they relate to the Canadian context?
- What are the research and policy issues that need to be considered regarding quality of work in Canada? (i.e. Minimum wage, housing, unionization, transportation, contracting rules, health and safety, EI modernization/benefits schemes, technological change, skilled immigrant underemployment). What framework is helpful for envisioning an integrated future of work where quality of work is integrated holistically into a variety of social systems and safety-net approaches?
- What are some incentives and barriers preventing employers from implementing measures to improve quality of work? What incentives can we explore at the employer level (firm level and sectoral level) to foster dialogue about quality of work and productivity? What policy levers exist for engaging with employers around quality of work?
- How can employers and policy makers ensure that higher-paid sectors and roles are more inclusive and equitable in terms of the populations that access them? How do key stakeholders work to improve low-quality sectors where disadvantaged groups are currently disproportionately represented?
- How much agency do workers have in influencing quality of work? What is the future of worker organization and what role could it play in improving quality of work?
- How is the changing nature of worker-employer contracts implicating our understanding of quality of work? Do we need to adjust our understanding of employment labour with the rise of gig work?
The Expression of Interest should be a maximum of five (5) pages in length and respond to the following questions.
Description of Research: What research do you propose to undertake? Briefly describe the scope of research, key question(s), and the approach you are considering.
Policy Relevance: How would the proposed research address key issues for stakeholders related to the quality of work? Which stakeholders and which issues? How would the research advance policy dialogue and/or program design in the area of quality of work?
Partnerships and Resources: What partnerships (interdisciplinary or with non-academic organizations) would be part of the research project? What is the estimated total budget? (Please note a detailed budget is not required at this point, but will be required for the full proposal).
Relevant Experience: Who are the key researcher(s) who would lead this project? Please provide a brief summary of their relevant experience, publications, and/or links to websites.
Key details for this opportunity are found in the table below.
Projects would be expected to address specific questions related to the given theme. We will assemble a diverse research portfolio that responds to our key questions.
Projects will begin in February 2022, with completion by early 2023.
Projects will require an exemption or review by a Research Ethics Board. Researchers who are affiliated with a university or hospital institution with their own REB will be expected to submit the project to their home REB for approval. This activity must be included within the project timeline.
FSC will also convene the researchers working on work quality for roundtable discussions about their research work. Researchers will be expected and encouraged to participate in this knowledge-sharing and dialogue.
Projects are expected to range between $25,000 and $75,000. Expenses may include customary research expenses (i.e. salaries for primary researchers, research assistants, direct research expenses).
As a federally-funded entity, FSC will require quarterly narrative and financial reports about project activities. Projects should factor the time for reporting into their level of estimated effort.
Invitation to Submit a Full Proposal
Based on the Expressions of Interest, FSC will invite selected researchers/teams to submit a full proposal. This proposal, which should not exceed 10 pages in length, will expand upon the EOI and include:
• Research questions, methods, and analysis plans
• Proposed reports, events, or other deliverables
• Knowledge mobilization plans
• Workplan and budget
Timeline of key dates
November 25, 2021
Expressions of Interest submitted
December 13, 2021
FSC communicates to applicants regarding invitation to submit full proposal
January 10, 2022
Full proposals submitted
Final approval & contracting
Estimated project start date
Please submit all expressions of intent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 PM EST November 25, 2021.
Submissions may be made in English or French.