Are ‘cultures of worklessness’ passed down through generations? – No.

by richardhutton

From the Guardian today:

Families experiencing long-term worklessness remained committed to the value of work. Workless parents were unanimous in not wanting their children to end up in the same situation as themselves

The article was written in response to findings revealed in a study made by Teeside University, on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Teeside put it more strongly than the above quote indicates:

“There was no evidence of a culture of worklessness; no evidence people didn’t want to work and were happy to be dependent on welfare. In fact, workless parents were keen that their children do better than they had and actively helped them to find jobs”

So, the reality is the exact opposite of the myths peddled by successive government ministers, and their lackeys in the press: the longer somebody is unemployed, the more they value work – not just for themselves, but for their children.

As the JRF noted:

Across the generations, people stressed the social, psychological and financial value of working for a living, in preference to what Ryan Blenkinsopp (54, Middlesbrough) called the “miserable existence” of long-term unemployment

The importance of work, financially and psychologically, increases the longer that somebody is unable to find employment – as has long been known, given the upsurge in mental health problems experienced by the long-term unemployed.

In fact, what the Teeside researchers found was particularly revealing about the values children of unemployed parents are brought up with in the most deprived areas:

After further searching, we managed to recruit 20 families where there was long-term worklessness across two generations and interviewed family members in depth. It was clear that these families did not inhabit of ‘a culture of worklessness’. People told us that they deplored ‘the miserable existence’ of a life on benefits. Families experiencing long-term worklessness remained committed to the value of work. Workless parents were unanimous in not wanting their children to end up in the same situation as themselves.

They actively tried to help their children find jobs (for example, by accompanying them to job interviews to provide moral support). As one 50-year-old father said: ‘What I want is for my family to have jobs. They’re not asking for anything big, that’s the thing, they are not, like, being greedy.’ Unemployed young adults in these families were strongly committed to conventional values about work as part of a normal transition to adulthood. They were keen to avoid the poverty, worklessness and other problems experienced by their parents.

This has always, always, been obvious. Maybe if the media actually listened to the long-term workless instead of vilifying us, people might be spared all the political nastiness, and the bullying, sanctimonious hypocrisy.

For the full report, see Are ‘cultures of worklessness’ passed down the generations? by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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