Title

The Impact of World War II on Occupational Opportunity and Choice

Start Time

16-10-2009 9:30 AM

End Time

16-10-2009 11:00 AM

Abstract

Background: Today’s older adults grew up in an era marked, perhaps defined, by World War II. People’s occupational choices are shaped by the opportunities they have and the agency they exert. War may limit the opportunities or agency available to people and thus influence their occupations. Purpose: How did World War II shape people’s occupational opportunities and agency? Methods: This study was a cross-narrative review of nine occupational biographies. The biographies are of individuals in their 80s and 90s, now living in Canada. These individuals were interviewed (4-8 interviews of 1-2 hours each) about the occupations in which they engaged throughout their lives. Audiotapes of the interviews were transcribed verbatim, then analyzed inductively using holistic content and holistic form approaches. Life course and occupational science theoretical perspectives informed analyses. Each completed biography was approved by the individual. The nine completed biographies were re-analyzed to see whether and how occupational barriers and opportunities were related to the war. Results: Productive occupations were the most blatantly affected. Several young men and women served in the military – either voluntarily or by conscription, and this governed most occupations. Other participants lived under foreign military occupation, which constrained opportunity and freedom of choice regarding many occupations. Even those who remained civilians in Canada were affected. One woman spoke of the opportunity for paid work that arose from the war. The men were at war, so women, even married ones, were hired to work in the factories. Less obvious was the impact of the war on non-work occupations. For example rationing and scarcity forced people to focus additional time and effort on domestic chores like meal preparation, yet new leisure opportunities arose for one girl in the form of entertaining the soldiers at military canteens. Discussion: World War II was a turning point in the lives of all nine individuals. In some instances it offered opportunities for occupational choice, but at times it constrained their agency in selecting occupations. These opportunities and constraints were mediated, to some extent, by the age, sex, nationality, and geographical context of the participants. Implications: World events shape the occupational opportunities of individuals by influencing both opportunity and agency.

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Oct 16th, 9:30 AM Oct 16th, 11:00 AM

The Impact of World War II on Occupational Opportunity and Choice

Background: Today’s older adults grew up in an era marked, perhaps defined, by World War II. People’s occupational choices are shaped by the opportunities they have and the agency they exert. War may limit the opportunities or agency available to people and thus influence their occupations. Purpose: How did World War II shape people’s occupational opportunities and agency? Methods: This study was a cross-narrative review of nine occupational biographies. The biographies are of individuals in their 80s and 90s, now living in Canada. These individuals were interviewed (4-8 interviews of 1-2 hours each) about the occupations in which they engaged throughout their lives. Audiotapes of the interviews were transcribed verbatim, then analyzed inductively using holistic content and holistic form approaches. Life course and occupational science theoretical perspectives informed analyses. Each completed biography was approved by the individual. The nine completed biographies were re-analyzed to see whether and how occupational barriers and opportunities were related to the war. Results: Productive occupations were the most blatantly affected. Several young men and women served in the military – either voluntarily or by conscription, and this governed most occupations. Other participants lived under foreign military occupation, which constrained opportunity and freedom of choice regarding many occupations. Even those who remained civilians in Canada were affected. One woman spoke of the opportunity for paid work that arose from the war. The men were at war, so women, even married ones, were hired to work in the factories. Less obvious was the impact of the war on non-work occupations. For example rationing and scarcity forced people to focus additional time and effort on domestic chores like meal preparation, yet new leisure opportunities arose for one girl in the form of entertaining the soldiers at military canteens. Discussion: World War II was a turning point in the lives of all nine individuals. In some instances it offered opportunities for occupational choice, but at times it constrained their agency in selecting occupations. These opportunities and constraints were mediated, to some extent, by the age, sex, nationality, and geographical context of the participants. Implications: World events shape the occupational opportunities of individuals by influencing both opportunity and agency.