The ‘dole or drudgery’ dilemma: education, the work ethic and unemployment

Dunn, Andrew (2010) The ‘dole or drudgery’ dilemma: education, the work ethic and unemployment. Social Policy and Administration, 44 (1). pp. 1-19. ISSN 0144-5596

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Before the recession, Labour ministers claimed that much unemployment in the UK was voluntary.
While social policy authors have repeatedly countered such claims by stressing that unemployed
people generally possess a strong work ethic and employment commitment, their accounts typically
neglect the role that choosiness in job search behaviour plays in deciding individuals’ employment
status. Fifty in-depth interviews with both unemployed and employed respondents exposed considerable
diversity in attitudes towards ‘dole’ (being unemployed and claiming unemployment benefits)
and ‘drudgery’ (doing less attractive jobs). The more educated were more likely to prefer ‘dole’ to
‘drudgery’ (this was also found using National Child Development Study survey data), yet they
usually found jobs despite their greater choosiness. Those with very low educational attainment often
desperately wanted jobs but could not find them due to their low employability – which might offer
an explanation for the often replicated ( yet paradoxical) finding that unemployed people generally
exhibit a strong work ethic and pro-employment attitudes and behaviours. Furthermore, the findings
indicate that the scope for many Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants to increase their net income by
undertaking an unattractive job is greater than social policy authors often imply. The question of
‘who must do the least attractive jobs?’ has been neglected by both social policy academics and

Keywords:Jobseeker's Allowance, Social Security, Welfare Policy, Unemployment, Work ethic, Education, Employability, Job search
Subjects:L Social studies > L432 Welfare Policy
Divisions:College of Social Science > School of Social & Political Sciences
ID Code:9180
Deposited On:25 Apr 2013 19:58

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