Social Change and the Experience of Unemployment

By Duncan Gallie; Catherine Marsh et al. | Go to book overview

4
Unemployment and Attitudes to Work

DUNCAN GALLIE AND CAROLYN VOGLER


1. INTRODUCTION

How far must vulnerability to unemployment be accounted for in terms of the personal characteristics and work attitudes of the unemployed themselves, and how far must it be seen as the result of the labour market conditions that the unemployed confront? The argument that the unemployed themselves bear the responsibility for their marginality to the labour market implies that they have qualities that make them difficult to employ. For instance, they may have a degree of behavioural instability that makes it difficult for them to hold any job for long or a low level of commitment to employment, which means that they make little effort to get work once they have lost it. The alternative view is that the unemployed are largely victims of their circumstances: they may have been unlucky enough to have been employed in industries that engaged in large-scale redundancies and find themselves in labour markets where there is little demand for their skills. Finally, there is a set of arguments that emphasize the heterogeneity of the unemployed, suggesting that they should be seen as a set of diverse categories for whom unemployment has a very different significance. For instance, some see a major difference between those that are registered for benefit and those that are not. For others, unemployment is held to have a different significance for men than for women, due to differences in underlying social identities.

This chapter seeks to address this debate in three ways: first, it will examine the work histories of the unemployed and compare

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The authors are very grateful to Martin Range for assistance with program­ ming, and to David Cox for advice on the data analysis.

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