Welfare-to-work Policies Meeting Complex Realities of Unemployed Citizens: Examining Assumptions in Welfare

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This paper draws on a longitudinal ethnographic study conducted at one of the largest municipal jobcenters in Denmark. It investigates what happens when welfare-to-work policies meet the com- plex lived realities of unemployed citizens. I examine the nature of welfare policies, and show how these inscribe neoliberal economic discourse, which are not easily applicable to the lived reality of unemployed citizens. Findings from this study illustrate that there are incongruences between the nature of policies and the policies-in-use. I argue that these incongruences are a result of myriad of assumptions that are inscribed in the welfare apparatus, constituting tools, people, policies, and practices. I, therefore, unpack assumptions about caseworkers as well as benefit recipients, ap- pointments they must attend, and activation programs assigned to them.This way, the paper aims at initiating a discussion about finding ways to develop policies that are better applicable to the citizen’s lived realities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Working Life Studies
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)47-65
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2019


  • Welfare
  • welfare-to-work
  • activation policies
  • policy strategy
  • employment service
  • policy frames
  • public welfare agency
  • assumptions

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