This article challenges analyses that connect engagement in paid work with social inclusion. The article critiques much of the existing literature for its simplistic connectivity between paid work and social inclusion, arguing instead for an approach that recognizes the reciprocal and interactive relations between paid work, structural labour market factors and the everyday lives of working people. Drawing upon a selection of interviews of working people in Canada, the article examines how workers experience control, respect and trust and insecurity in the labour process, their work-life balance and the labour market. The article concludes that restructuring of work and the labour market have encouraged feelings and life practices that result in isolation, anger and a declining capacity of working people to look after their families and participate in their communities. In short, engagement in paid work, even so-called ‘good’ work, is leading to social exclusion rather than inclusion.