A (possible) justification for more conditionality and sanctioning? the evidence about Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants’ commitment to employment

Dunn, Andrew (2016) A (possible) justification for more conditionality and sanctioning? the evidence about Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants’ commitment to employment. In: Social Policy Association Annual Conference, Symposium on 'Disciplinary Welfare', 4 -6 July 2016, Belfast.

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Both the number of conditions attached to claiming UK unemployment benefits (Jobseeker’s Allowance [JSA]/Universal Credit) and the severity of the accompanying sanctions for non-compliance have increased over recent decades. Whether or not one welcomes this development depends upon several considerations, notably one’s ideological position and what one believes works effectively in practice. Recent Labour and Conservative-led governments have argued that the tougher measures are necessitated by a widespread lack of commitment to employment among unemployed claimants – an argument that is seemingly contradicted by much empirical evidence.

In this paper I look critically at existing evidence on the employment commitment of unemployed people and summarise my own empirical findings. I argue that social policy researchers have neglected two issues: 1. Job quality – while it is well established empirically that the vast majority of unemployed people want employment, little attention has been paid to their level of ‘choosiness’, in terms of the jobs they are willing to undertake; 2. The accuracy of first-hand accounts of unemployment – there has been a tendency to accept uncritically the statements made by unemployed claimants about their own commitment to employment, accompanied by a far more critical treatment of views expressed by professionals who work alongside claimants. All three of my studies investigated ‘choosiness’, and one of the three consisted of interviews with people employed in the welfare-to-work industry. Reflecting upon my findings, I conclude that while there remains little evidence to support the view that a separate ‘dependency culture’ exists among benefit claimants, the connection between ‘choosiness’ and periods of unemployment is perhaps far greater than social policy accounts usually imply.

Keywords:Jobseeker's Allowance, Universal Credit, Workfare, Benefits, Welfare-to-Work, Social Policy
Subjects:L Social studies > L410 UK Social Policy
L Social studies > L213 Socialism
L Social studies > L432 Welfare Policy
L Social studies > L400 Social Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
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ID Code:24709
Deposited On:15 Oct 2016 17:07

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