Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Katina Pollock


This dissertation explores the working-lives of unemployed and underemployed teachers in the Canadian province of Ontario. Over the past decade, the number of new teachers unable to secure employment within the teaching profession in Ontario has continued to grow. As the oversupply of teachers is expected to persist, an extremely competitive labour market has made the position of being an un(der)employed teacher increasingly “precarious” (Ontario College of Teachers, 2014, 2015).

However, such concerns must also be examined within the context of the contemporary world of work and society. Standing’s (2011) understanding of precarious work and the precariat provides a theoretical and conceptual framework from which to further explore and interrogate the experiences of un(der)employed teachers in relation to work, employment, unemployment, underemployment and precarity today. Through a qualitative study of 24 teachers, the working-lives of un(der)employed teachers are examined—specifically in relation to issues of precarious work, control, identity and emotion.

Teachers revealed that precarious work and precarity have both become common features of, and in, their work and lives as they navigate the labour market in Ontario. Moreover, their work, employment relationships and social relations with teaching appear to be distinctive from those in more traditional permanent teaching positions. For all of these teachers, the inability to secure full-time, permanent employment in a crowded teacher labour market was a shared experience. However, their challenges with un(der)employment were not homogeneous, nor did they experience precarity in the same manner. Changes in the nature of teaching work and employment reveal the numerous ways in which many teachers’ working-lives have changed in Ontario and warrant further consideration for issues surrounding educational equity, access and quality in the 21st century.