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Reconfiguring Work and Welfare in the New Economy: Regulatory Geographies of Welfare-to-Work at the Local Level

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611 - 633
Number of pages23
JournalGender, Place and Culture
Volume18
Issue number5
DatePublished - Oct 2011

Abstract

Welfare-to-work lies at the heart of the British government’s employment strategy. Its key initiative – a series of ‘New Deals’ for the Unemployed – is a supply-side active labour market policy that has been combined with important changes to the tax and benefit system to try and engage the unemployed in employment. In this, the need to give support to individuals to partake in work is emphasised. Yet there is little consideration of how the re-regulation of labour markets through welfare-to-work is contingent upon gender and class relations which condition the levels of access that (working-class) women and men have to work. This paper explores gender issues across the outgoing Labour government’s New Deal initiative using a local case study to consider how the institutionalisation of welfare-to-work at the local level constrains, rather than enables, improvements to women’s quality of life. In constraining the potential of local projects to offer working-class women access to the labour market through programmes that create a genuine ‘work-life’ balance (as opposed to seeking the advancement of a market rationale), institutional restructuring around the New Deals is found to increase the pressures on women to be ‘work ready’. With greater numbers of women facing the challenges of unemployment in the current recession, the framework of contemporary policy, which does not effectively tackle the acute difficulties (working-class) women face in accessing paid work, legitimates the gendered effects of (un)employment. In this context, attention to the gendering of governmental techniques associated with welfare-to-work is argued to be of ever increasing importance.

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