Department of Political Science

Working Less, Not More in a Workfare Programme: Group Solidarity, Informal Norms and Alternative Value Systems Amongst Activated Participants

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This article uses extensive ethnographic methods to explore the lived reality of a Danish workfare programme. The programme requires social assistance recipients to perform manual labour for their benefits at municipal work sites. The contrast between the political rhetoric that justifies the workfare programme and the lived reality of it is striking. While the programme is justified as a means to put the passive unemployed to work, there is a norm of working less, not more at the site. The participants spend most of their time waiting or conducting seemingly meaningless work assignments. However, over time, the majority of the participants begin to embrace this modus operandi at the site. This article answers this apparent paradox by turning to concepts from the anthropology of industrial work. Such concepts allow us to analyse how camaraderie exists amongst participants as well as work supervisors at the site. Particularly, the camaraderie is based on group solidarity, an informal regulation of work efficiency and an alternative system of value. Hereby, the article adds to previous findings on the 'lived experiences' of welfare recipients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2021

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