focus groups with young and mature unemployed
This chapter posits the ‘money economy’ in Ireland as the key site for the construction and legitimation of identities. We propose that employment is in fact the central valued social role in Irish society. Working, paying taxes, and being seen to be ‘contributing’, are the fundamental criteria by which ones ‘value’ is established and maintained. Further, there are psychological benefits afforded by work such as time structure, social contacts, participation in collective goals, social achievement, and identity formation. Being unemployed, according to our focus groups, has a variety of negative effects on one’s sense of self. Our use of focus groups allowed us to understand unemployment as a subjective experience, and our SRV framework shows how state actions contribute to the social construction of this experience.The three levels of social valorisation theory (self, societal and state valuation) were supported by the participants’ comments in both groups, and clearly evidenced the precarity of unemployment in Waterford. The precarious (and socially devalued) status of unemployment was shown to refer to a loss of meaning and identity and sense of unpredictability in life planning (self-devaluation); a lack of social engagement (societal devaluation); and a sense of insecurity and inequality (state devaluation).
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