Young Long-term Unemployed and the Individualization of Responsibility
Keywords:Employment, wages, unemployment & rehabilitation, Identity, meaning & culture, Labor market institutions & social partners
AbstractIn Sweden, as in most Western societies, a common belief is that unemployment is somehow linked to the individual, her lack of work ethic, or other personal shortcomings rather than to structural causes. This is not only manifested in public arenas such as the media or political debates but also in our social surroundings. In recent years, these views have gained importance, indicating a shift in the location of responsibilities from the welfare state to the individual. This shift entails high demands and expectations on unemployed people and is something they have to deal with and relate to. One of the most exposed groups is young long-term unemployed. The aim of this article is to highlight how the discourse of individualized responsibility is reflected in unemployed peoples’ stories, and to shed light on the ways in which young long-term unemployed adults relate to and position themselves toward this discourse. Based on 18 qualitative interviews with young Swedish long-term unemployed people, the findings show three approaches to the discourse: conformity, distancing, and resistance.
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