Living off the land and working in mines: Fly-in/fly-out rotational shift work and subsistence practices in the Yukon Territory

Theme 5. Other
Session Name 5.1 Current research on extractive industries and the sustainability in the Arctic
Presentation Type Oral
Author(s) Gertrude Saxinger (University of Vienna, Austria)
Abstract text

Today mobile employment is the standard form of labour force provision to the extractive industries located in remote areas worldwide – in contrast to past practises of establishing mono-industrial settlements to house workforce and their families. These long-distance commuters, also called fly-in/fly-out (FIFO) workers, work rotational shifts, which means living two weeks in a remote camp alternating with two weeks of time off at home or travelling.


In indigenous communities of the Yukon Territory (Canada) many people pursue subsistence activities such as hunting and fishing alongside participating in the wage economy. The mobile and multilocal FIFO life-style, i.e. rotational shift work, impacts in particular on the negotiation of the two modes of livelihood. This paper argues that albeit mining is considered as a constraint to the idea of indigenous stewardship of the land, rotational shift work brings about opportunities for sophisticated subsistence practices; e.g., when wage work finances hunting gear, fuel, snow mobiles, trucks and boats and allows for being on the land an extensive amount of time during off-shift. Some workers report that being in camp provides them with a welcome break from the sometimes demanding everyday social life in their community.


This ethnographic paper also raises the theoretical questions, how gender interplays with the intersection of wage work and subsistence practices in a male dominated extractive sector and how rotational shift work impacts private and domestic life in order to investigate the concept of (social) sustainability in mining under current politico-economic conditions.

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