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Employment, Work and Welfare

The Employment Work and Welfare programme is focused on understanding transitions within the labour market, both from unemployment into work and within work. Projects focus on unemployment, insecure work and the role the interaction between gender and wider social structures related to inequality and labour market potential. The Programme also seeks to engage critically with debates about the future of welfare provision across the European Union. Headline research questions include:

  • What does it mean to be employed or unemployed?
  • How can labour markets be made to work better?
  • What are the problems affecting particular groups in the labour market, such as women or young men?
  • What is the relationship between welfare and employment?
  • What might a future sustainable welfare regime look like?
For further details please contact the Programme Leaders:

Current Projects

An exploratory study to investigate career choice and satisfaction among two cohorts of professional women with children at different stages of the lifespan.

Dr Helen Woolnough and Jane Redshaw

The objective of this exploratory study is to investigate anticipated and real career choices made by two cohorts of professional women at differing stages of the lifespan. This study also examines the factors that influence these career choices and satisfaction with career choices made. Cohort one consists of women whose first child was born between 2011 and 2006. Cohort two consists of women whose first child was born between 1990 and 1995. Comparisons between the two cohorts will be made to identify the extent to which the experiences of professional women have changed (or not) in the past 15-20 years. This study will advance knowledge relating to women’s career choice and satisfaction at differing stages of the lifespan and provide the basis for the development of future research in this area.

The research will be useful to policy makers and those involved in developing the position of women in the labour market.

Qualitative Study of Welfare and Work Experiences across the EU

Professor Colin Webster, Dr Darren Nixon and Dr Alex Nunn

This developing project is seeking collaborators from Germany, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands and Greece. The study is developing an approach to be implemented in the participating countries looking at work and welfare transitions among young people and young adults who are unemployed and/or underemployed.

The research will collect qualitative, in-depth data about welfare and work transitions as they are subjectively experienced by individuals who are unemployed and/or underemployed in selected EU countries. It aims to discover any mismatch or match between actual individual and group experiences of work and welfare transitions and work and welfare policies aimed at ensuring these transitions are successful.

The research will be useful to policy makers and practitioners in the fields of education, employment services and careers guidance.

Review of research about any link between poverty and crime

Professor Colin Webster and Dr Sarah Kingston

Funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as part of their Anti-poverty strategy and ‘Task Force’ consultation, the review will provide an explicit and direct account of what we know about these relationships, what is being done to ameliorate poverty and crime and the range of policy targeting this relationship. Informing the JRF Task Force, the review will contribute an assessment of the reliability and robustness of the evidence that links poverty and crime, an evaluation of the contribution existing crime reduction and prevention programmes and policies make to anti-poverty strategies for the UK, and offer recommendations about how to further improve anti-poverty strategies in respect of the contribution crime makes to poverty. To be persuasive the review will examine not only their correlation or association but the causes and mechanisms generating and linking poverty with crime, to answer the question, ‘How and why are poverty, crime and victimisation connected?’

The research will be useful to policy makers across social and economic areas and professionals in the police and criminal justice system.

The Work Ethic, Unemployment and Neo-Liberal Self-hood in the Contemporary Economy.

Dr Darren Nixon

Dr Nixon is currently working on a twin set of papers that unpick some of the problematic assumptions that underpin contemporary welfare-to-work and active labour market policies. Chief among these assumptions and a key driving force behind the tightening of eligibility criteria across a range of benefits is the idea that the unemployed lack the ‘work-ethic’.

However, decades of both case-study and survey research tells us that there has been no discernible change in the general ‘normative commitment’ to paid-work and that the unemployed consistently express very strong ‘commitment to work’ (despite repeated experiences of dispiriting forms of work). The papers explore how concepts such as the ‘work ethic’, ‘commitment to work’ and ‘employability; are being re-coded in contemporary labour market policy debates to mean the increased requirement for the unemployed to ‘work on the self’ and present a generalised ‘readiness’ to take whatever jobs contemporary neo-liberal labour markets generate at the bottom end, regardless of the qualities of these jobs or their potential to aid self-development. Growing evidence suggests that such jobs may have negative repercussions for workers’ well-being and mental health.

The research will be useful to policy makers, and those involved in developing and critiquing employment and welfare-to-work policies and active labour market interventions.