Leisure in the lifestyles of unemployed people : a case study in Leicester
The rise of unemployment in industrialised countries since the mid-1970s, and its likely persistence into the foreseeable future, have stimulated general debate about the future roles of work and leisure. Several writers have claimed that in future leisure may, in part at least, form a 'solution' to the problems of societies in which there is a shortage of paid work. There is, however, substantial evidence that in a contemporary Britain leisure is of limited use as an immediate solution to the problems of unemployed people: when they become unemployed their leisure is more likely to reduce than increase in scale and quality and very few are able to develop a lifestyle in which leisure fulfils the role previously occupied by work. Despite this, since the early 1980s there has been a growth in public sector schemes providing special opportunities for unemployed people to take part in sport and recreation and the view persists that leisure has a special role in the lifestyles of unemployed people. This thesis assesses the response to a local authority scheme for the unemployed, established as an experiment by Leicester City Council in partnership with the Sports Council. The research examines the scale and pattern of attendance at the scheme and identifies wide variations in the participation patterns of users, few of whom became regular participants. The lifestyles of a sub-group of 'committed' frequent users were examined in more detail to identify the distinctive characteristics of those for whom the scheme had apparently become a regular feature in their lives. All of the sub-group of committed users had developed a generally 'active' lifestyle, untypical of that usually associated with the unemployed. Participation in the sports scheme was only one aspect of this. Most were also involved in more purposeful activities such as educational courses and voluntary work, these activities being more important to them and more of a 'work substitute'. The findings indicate that only a minority of unemployed people are likely to participate frequently in active forms of recreation and that those who do are also likely to be active in other ways. For those who do take part in recreation activities, such activities fulfil the 'normal' role of leisure: they do not provide a substitute for work or become an adequate basis for an alternative lifestyle in which the centrality of work is replaced by the centrality of leisure.