French Canadians - Economy

Subsistence and Commercial Activities. Quebec has been industrialized since the 1920s. Before 1939, more than 20 percent of the population worked in agriculture, industry being mostly textile-and local-market-oriented. World War II accelerated industrialization. Today, Quebec is an industrially advanced society. Since 1960, Quebec governments have encouraged a diversified industrial base of Québecois-owned enterprises through a social-democratic policy (social assistance, free health services, Health and Security Commission) and an interventionist economic policy (statist financial Institutions; direct subventions to industries; nationalization of electricity, automobile insurance, and asbestos companies; construction of dams). Agriculture has been modernized and only 2 percent of the population is now engaged in farm work. The main products are milk, pork, beef, fruits, and vegetables, grains, and greenhouse crops. Forests have attracted pulp and paper companies.

Industrial Arts. French Canadians make traditional and modern crafts. The traditional crafts focus on re-creations of folk objects. The modern is creative and functional. Craft-work is taught in technical schools and organized in associations holding annual expositions.

Trade. Cities and suburbs have shopping centers and American-style stores. There are also open-air markets during the summer for fruits and vegetables, but most people buy their food in supermarket chains. A recent trend, however, is to buy fruits, vegetables, and meat directly from the farm.

Division of Labor. Traditionally, women working on the farm performed a great variety of tasks. Many handled all the farm responsibilities while their husbands lumbered in the forests for months. They also received more education than men and managed the family money. Outside of agriculture, they could work only as teachers, nurses, or industrial workers. This rigid division of labor was challenged by a strong feminist movement during the 1970s. Since 1975, steps have been taken to give women equal access to university education, professions, and traditionally male jobs. The Quebec government has followed affirmative action guidelines for women since 1981, and the feminist movement has been Institutionalized through the formation of a Consultative Council on the status of women in 1977, and a Feminine Condition Ministry in 1979. Important changes have resulted in the division of labor between the sexes in the workplace and in the family, with the younger generation now taking sexual equality for granted.

Land Tenure. Quebec is a capitalist society. Private ownership is the rule for agricultural, industrial, and commercial property. Family farms are predominant with a single farm owner or a partnership between spouses or among relatives.

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