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Sylvia Fuller

SSHRC Aurora Prize

2009 SSHRC Aurora Prize: Sylvia Fuller   "Immigrants are often told to acquire Canadian work experience because what they had in their home countries is not valuable. They are then counselled to get that experience through temporary work, as the barriers to get hired are lower. But where will that temporary job take them in the end? My research will help us better understand the dynamics and the inequalities of employment trends, and to know how it impacts workers’ well-being."

Sylvia Fuller, winner of the 2009 SSHRC Aurora Prize, is passionate about ensuring equity in the labour marketplace.

As part of her award-winning research, Fuller, a professor of sociology at The University of British Columbia, is researching how mobility outcomes for workers in different forms of employment vary across countries.

"We know that workers who veer off the path of traditional, full-time, permanent employment face increased economic insecurity. But not all ‘non-standard’ work is created equal—some types are more risky than others, and the same type of non-standard work can be a stepping stone to upward mobility in some countries, while in others it is a dead-end," says Fuller.

She seeks to understand how the characteristics of particular labour markets and institutions shape the longer-term employment trajectories of workers in non-standard employment. Fuller is also focusing on both gender and citizenship as critical distinctions in who employers hire for different types of work, and where that work leads.

"For example, part-time work is strongly female-dominated," explains Fuller, who is also investigating the extent to which immigrants are more likely to be found in certain types of work, and whether their pathways into permanent full-time work are the same as for other citizens.

In her previous SSHRC-funded research, for which she won both the Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship and the Aileen D. Ross Fellowship, Fuller discovered that, although job change early in the career may result in increased salary, workers who keep changing jobs typically earn less in the end.

"My research has taught me that we really need to pay attention to workers’ patterns of labour force participation over time if we want to understand what particular work experiences mean for their well-being. Ideally, we would like to have a labour market that is open and flexible and does not lock people in to particular jobs or career paths, but this remains a challenge for our systems of social protection and labour market regulation," she says.

An accomplished and well-respected researcher in her field, Fuller has been published in a range of international journals, has won numerous awards, and is frequently quoted in the press as an expert on workplace topics. Although she has already achieved a great deal, this is just the beginning for this promising young researcher.

"I see myself as not only a professor and a researcher, but also a public servant," she says. "Ultimately, I work for the people, and so it is part of my job to conduct research of importance to the public, and to share my findings more broadly than just to an academic audience."

The SSHRC Aurora Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding new researcher who is building a reputation for exciting and original research in the social sciences or humanities.