Can Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs) serve as a Counter-Movement to the Marketization of Labour? The Case of Petites Mains in Montreal, Quebec

Authors: Norma Rantisi*, Concordia University, Deborah Leslie*, University Of Toronto
Topics: Economic Geography, Social Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: social enterprises, work integration, immigrant women, neoliberalism, Montreal
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Maryland C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Immigrant women face many difficulties securing stable employment, owing to the gender, familial and racial inequalities they face in their host city and the precarious nature of their work lives. In the context of Montreal, Quebec, one labour market intermediary that has emerged to promote the social and economic inclusion of marginalized immigrant women is Petites Mains. Petites Mains is a 'work integration social enterprise' (or WISE) that was created when a Montreal food bank closed over 30 years ago, and immigrant women in the neigbourhood requested support from a local Parish for training for apparel jobs. Today, the program provides participants training in sewing, restaurant or office work, as well as other forms of instruction (e.g. language) and social supports; however, there are challenges in balancing a hybrid economic-social mandate and countering the negative effects of the market.

While WISEs in Quebec have their origins in community or religious associations and their emergence can be traced to the decline of the welfare state and social protections, over time they have become increasingly dependent on state funding (especially support from the provincial government) and state mandates. Yet, the increasingly neoliberal orientation of provincial governments threatens the social mandates of the WISEs. This study shows how these changes are affecting the potential of WISEs to assist marginalized immigrant women as well as the organization’s efforts to leverage networks (at the city and provincial level) to overcome some of the challenges of serving as a counter-movement to the increased marketization of labour

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