Commuters and Communities: How Employment Mobility Affects Source Communities

Joshua Barrett, MA Candidate

In the past decade, scholars such as Hannam et al. (2006), Sheller and Urry (2006), and Cresswell (2011) have identified a ‘new mobilities paradigm’ observing increased levels, new forms, and different patterns of mobility among people, ideas, and knowledge. One type of mobility is commute work, which can be defined as people travelling away from their place of residence for work from two hours or more daily to more extended absences and journeys lasting weeks, months or even years. Increased mobility has included work arrangements in the extractive industry (i.e., mining, oil and gas), which have shifted over the past 50 years from resource town models to increased dependence on FIFO and drive-in drive out workforces (Storey, 2010). Researchers have examined how commute work affects the livelihood and quality of life of communities and regions that host mobile workers (Storey, 2010; Ferguson, 2011; Walsh, 2012). There has, however, been little research on how labour mobility affects source communities – areas where people commute from – especially in rural regions (Milbourne and Kitchen, 2014). More specifically, as Hall (2014) and Esteves (2008) argue, we know little about how or whether mobile workers invest in community development in their places of residence. This includes investments of time, such as community engagement (e.g. volunteering), financial investments (e.g. buying property or goods and services), and emotional attachments to place.

The purpose of my Masters research is to study the impacts of E-RGM on source communities, with a particular emphasis on the case of nickel processing workers in Long Harbour, NL. While existing literature about commuting impacts on communities has focused on the construction phase of megaprojects, generally a temporary form of employment, more research is needed to understand how commuting affects communities within the operation phase, which provides more permanent employment. In doing so, I will use questionnaires and in-depth interviews as my primary data collection techniques.