• Nina Særkjær Olsen
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)

This thesis is a qualitative case study carried out within the welfare administration in Greenland’s largest municipality, Kommuneqarfik Sermersooq, with focus on the labour market division that helps long-term unemployed citizens to enter the labour market. It is a field study in the welfare administration that provided insight in several relations regarding the work with long-term unemployed. I early in the field study realized that both caseworkers and leaders (hereafter administration agents) had some distinct views of the long-term unemployed; views that regarded the group as not motivated for employment or for being self-supporting and thereby using the municipality as a “bank” when one is in need. The thesis carries out a study of these views, a study of how the long-term unemployed themselves regard their situation as being jobless, and a discussion of the consequences of possible different views among the two groups in the welfare administration’s social work.
The collection of data is phenomenological, and the aim is to gain insight into the administration agents’ and the long-term unemployed citizens’ internal meanings regarding the unemployment situation through a hermeneutical interpretation approach.
Through participation observation in the administration and interviews with caseworkers the data shows that most administration agents point out that the long-term unemployed citizens can have several complex social problems such as homelessness, abuse and psychological problems. What is remarkable is that when the administration agents explain specifically why the long-term unemployed do not get jobs, they explain it with the clients’ individual, morally wrong character traits. By following Schutz’ phenomenology, 4 types of long-term unemployed has been drawn from these data: the exploiter, who is slyly using welfare benefits and therefore chooses not to apply for jobs; the spineless, who remains passive and helpless; the entitled, who is considered to be in a more unfortunate position due to some complex social problems and to the administration’s possible insufficient measures to help the type into employment; the lost, who is considered without any hope for ever entering the labour market and the welfare administration should therefore not spend a lot of resources in this type. The analysis shows that the administrative agents’ views are rooted in social heritage, rational choice and the theory of social learning, which indicates that the morally wrong character traits have been inherited, slyly chosen or learned from others. Furthermore, the analysis shows that the administrative agents’ views can be stigmatizing, but the allocation of the stigma can also be seen as the administrative agents’ way of dealing with a demanding job, where gross categorizations become a way of handling the job.
Interviews with the long-term unemployed show that they also regard the situation of being unemployed as undesirable, but they do not explain the situation with morally wrong characteristic traits. Instead they focus on structural and health conditions as reasons for them being out of work. Furthermore, they mention previous collegial difficulties with leaders, which have led to unemployment. Long-term unemployment citizens regard the situation as being shameful and deviant which indicate that they accept the stigma, they are given. Using Meads’ symbolic interactionism this can be interpreted as a way of communicating the generalized other. The long-term unemployed tell of different ways of reacting to the situation. Some react by actively applying for jobs and others react by retiring. In the analysis the compass of shame has been used as an analytic tool to understand the different reactions, as shame can cause both an active reaction but also a resigned behavior.
Both the administrative agents and the long-term unemployed citizens have a mutual understanding regarding the undesirable in being unemployed, but have different understandings of why the unemployed do not obtain employment. When the administrative agents neither include the long-term unemployed’s understanding of the situation nor their knowledge of the complex social problems in their definition of the situation, the consequence is that the institutional doxa judgment will be dominating. It argues that to help long-term unemployed into employment it will be fruitful to evolve a social judgment among the administrative agents and for this purpose a holistic approach is favourable. The use of a holistic approach should focus on understanding coherence between the long-term unemployed’s problems, their resources and their needs. This supports an evolvement of a social judgment and thereby the ability to provide measures on different levels and help more citizens into employment.

Publication date5 Jan 2012
Number of pages109
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet, Kandidatuddannelsen i Socialt Arbejde
ID: 58671810