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Technological changes and clerical job distribution in Canada, 1911-1971 Adjebeng-Asem, Selina

Abstract

The two major concerns of this paper are: a) clerical job distribution in Canada for the 1911 - 1971 period; and b) technological changes in office equipment for the same period. The clerical occupation is an important occupational category, particularly for women, in Canada. One-third of all working Canadian women are included in this occupational category. On the other hand, the effects of technological changes on employment is an issue that attracts a wide variety of audiences: economists, academics, labour organizers and governments, to name a few. This thesis undertakes to assess the effects of technological changes in the office on the clerical job distribution for the 1911 - 1971 period. The assessment is done with a) an analysis of historical data based on the 1911 - 1971 census of Canada; b) content analysis of the Financial Post of the same period; c) data on business machines from Burroughs Business Machines Ltd.; d) Prescribed Textbooks Guide for B.C. High School Commerce; and e) existing literature and material in the field. The thesis begins with a brief introduction of the problem to be studied. Then the concepts to be used are clarified, and the methods briefly outlined. Chapter I deals with the organization of office work for the 60-year period and how this has been affected by technological changes in office equipment. The organization of office work is divided into three arbitrary periods, the old office 1911 - 1920; the transitional office 1920 -1950; and the modern office 1950 - 1971. Chapter II deals mainly with office technology: what it was in the old office, and the functions it performed. These are then compared with the same factors in the modern office. New office technology which has developed within the period and its effects on office organization is also discussed. Chapter III analyses the effects of these technological developments on the distribution of clerical jobs. This discussion is done in relation to the war and post-war pressures, contradictions in the Canadian economy and occupational segregation in Canadian society. Then, the implications of the analysis for the feminist movement in Canada is briefly suggested. The thesis is concluded with the discussion of the part that technological changes in conjunction with ideology (sex typing or occupational segregation) and economic strains play on the clerical job distribution. Then, some suggestions for further research are outlined.

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