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Title: Between the devil and the deep blue sea : exploring discourses and experiences of work, welfare, policy and practice
Author: Prendergast, Louise
ISNI:       0000 0004 7432 2133
Awarding Body: Bangor University
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis draws on ideas of governmentality (Foucault, 2008) to address the following research questions: what are the dominant political discourses of work and welfare; how have these changed historically, and do young people and front-line workers represent and reproduce these discourses? A historical analysis of work and welfare was undertaken, followed by a critical discourse analysis of four Conservative-led Coalition Government speeches, and narrative interviews with young people in precarious work or unemployed (n=15), and front-line workers, including employment advisers and mentors (n=7). The thesis finds historical governance through stigma and the work ethic, to maintain the individual’s closeness to the labour market. As paid entry-level jobs declined (late 1970s), young people became an object of governmentality, assumed to require ‘employment training’. Welfare shifted from a safety net to a facilitator of individual responsibility, and paid work became increasingly precarious with job insecurity and low pay. Nonetheless, the coalition political discourses maintain work as transformative, and welfare as damaging. Young people interviewed referred to competition for unpaid work schemes, hoping to get the ‘job’, and/or competed for hours in insecure jobs. Front-line workers maintained their client’s confidence, and skills to access benefits, encouraging them to take work schemes, and low paid, insecure jobs. Both participant groups referred to stigma, financial hardship and demotivation, and yet reproduced discourses valorising work and denigrating the benefits ‘scrounger’. This thesis presents important insights into lived experiences of work and welfare, and the pervasiveness of discourses that obfuscate structural factors: low pay, poverty, and power relations. Where ‘problems’ of the unemployed inform policy solutions, young people may be shaped through discursive practices to become a resilient, potential reserve army of labour. Further research is required considering ongoing welfare reforms, in particular, Universal Credit which imposes conditionality for those in work, effectively blurring the distinction between the so-called ‘shirker’, and ‘striver’.
Supervisor: Seddon, Diane Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available