Reconfiguring work and welfare in the UK's ‘New Economy’: regulatory geographies of welfare-to-work at the local level

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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 employment. This article explores gender issues across Britain's 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 does not effectively tackle the acute difficulties that ‘working-class’ women face in accessing paid work and consequently 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.

Keywords: Reino Unido; UK; asistencia pública-al-trabajo; empleo; employment; gender; género; institutional restructuring; recesión; recession; reestructuración institucional; welfare-to-work

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2011.601809

Affiliations: University of Bristol - School of Geographical Sciences, Bristol, United Kingdom

Publication date: October 1, 2011

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