Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work?


by Guest    
11:35 am - December 13th 2012

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by Robert MacDonald

The real problems of ‘in-work poverty’ and ‘underemployment’ are finally making some headlines, elbowing their way into the usual discourse about welfare to work and benefit dependency. But that isn’t enough.

Politicians, policy makers and welfare practitioners talk confidently of ‘three generations of families where no-one has ever worked’.

A new study for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation tested these ideas. The aim was to see whether cultures of worklessness helped explain long-term unemployment in families across generations.

We undertook concerted, intensive fieldwork in very deprived neighbourhoods of Glasgow and Middlesbrough but we were unable to locate any families with three generations who had never worked. If such families exist, they can only account for a minuscule fraction of workless people.

Recent surveys suggest that less than one per cent of workless households might have two generations who have never worked. Families with three such generations will therefore be even fewer. 

Next, we undertook lengthy, life history interviews with 20 families with long-term worklessness across two generations. Even locating these families was very challenging. So, what did we find?

• There was no evidence of a ‘culture of worklessness’. Families remained committed to the value of work and would have preferred to be in jobs rather than have ‘the miserable existence’ of a life on benefits.

• Workless parents were unanimous in not wanting their children to end up in the same situation as themselves and actively tried to help them find jobs.

• Working-age children remained 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.

• The long-term worklessness of parents in these families was a result of the impact of complex problems (particularly related to ill-health) associated with living in long-term and deep poverty.
As one interviewee asked, ‘how can you work when you have a life like mine?’ In an already tight labour market, multiple problems combined to place people at the back of a long queue for jobs.

If we cannot find a ‘culture of worklessness’ here, amongst these extreme cases of very long-term unemployed families, we are unlikely to find it anywhere.

Politicians and policy-makers need to abandon theories – and policies flowing from them – that see worklessness as primarily the outcome of a culture of worklessness, held in families and passed down the generations.

This returns us to our starting point. The real challenge is creating opportunities for work – jobs that help people escape from poverty and insecurity.

Poverty and Insecurity: life in low-pay, no-pay Britain is published this week by Policy Press.

Cross-posted from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation blog

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Reader comments


It was always bullshit, mainly due to the fact that one of the biggest jokes over the years regarding jobseekers wasn’t that they were sat on their arse doing sweet FA, but that they were actually builders and plumbers on the fiddle.

Admittedly, there is not so much unemployment in the area where i live compared to other parts of the country. I personally do not know any family where three generations of the same family do not work. In fact i don’t know any families where no one works, although i accept there may be some. The people i have known who have been unemployed. Mostly through being made redundant, usually find jobs.

When exactly does a worker become a shirker?

Where?

In the house on the opposite side of my street. The one four doors up as well …….

I’m sure plenty of people are going to comment this is all an illusion but I see them every week (they’re very nice people by the way).

Lynne Re Comment 2:

“When exactly does a worker become a shirker?”

When they spend too much time on LibCon instead of doing their work.

@Kojak

So there are two houses on your street where there are work aged adults (18+) who are living with their parents who have never had a job and they have grandparents who have also never had a job (The Grandparents even if they had children at 16 who had children at 16 – have never held a job since they left school in 1979????, is that all 4 GrandParents??)

I’m pretty sure the Rowntree trust did a better job than peering through the curtains!

Kojak.

Am retired, thanks very much. Through ill health and age. I am not aware that i spend a lot of time on LC.

Perhaps as you know so many people who are unempolyed, indicates that you live in an area where unemployment is high. Maybe there are not a lot of jobs to be had in your area. Even during the last recession there was not a lot of unemployment in our area.

My husband during his working life has been made redundant five times. He is now retired, has only ever been out of work for exactly three weeks.

7. Derek Hattons Tailor

Have you tried looking in Middlesbrough ?

8. domestic extremist

The Windsors.

9. Chaise Guevara

@ Kojak and Derek

So you guys prefer anecdotes to actual evidence, then?

10. Derek Hattons Tailor

I think three generations continuously unemployed is statistically unlikely, but there are areas of the country that lack employment opportunities to the extent that no one has had what you might call a steady job for three generations. Nulabour made this worse by concentrating economic growth in London/SE and then redistributing some of that wealth in the form of welfare, which had the effect of institutionalizing dependency in some regions.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 10 Derek

Well, that’s probably the case.

Chaise G Re Comment 9:

“So you guys prefer anecdotes to actual evidence, then?”

I get it, I tell you about what I see on my street and you post that I prefer anecdotes rather than evidence.

What I see is evidence. If you want to call me a liar – just come out and do so. Don’t beat around the bush.

Exactly what evidence would you like? Family photographs? Their benefits reference numbers?

I doubt whether that would be enough as you’ll believe what you want to and countenance acceptable alternatives.

13. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Kojak

“I get it, I tell you about what I see on my street and you post that I prefer anecdotes rather than evidence.

What I see is evidence. If you want to call me a liar – just come out and do so. Don’t beat around the bush.”

I’m not calling you a liar. And what you see is technically evidence, it just fails in the face of much better evidence.

Do you know what “anecdote” actually means from a statistical point of view? It means the relatively few cases you have experienced personally, which will be shaded by where you live and what you do and just random chance, plus a huge helping of the biases you apply to that information – biases we all share.

Put it like this: if you grew up in a cult, you’d think a big percentage of the world agreed with its principles, because most of the people you know are members. That would be flawed. So when it’s your word vs an actual study, I’m gonna go with the study.

“Exactly what evidence would you like? Family photographs? Their benefits reference numbers?”

I’d like you to understand stats. But if I’m wrong, throw me a good study showing that’s the case. If this was medical research, I’d demand double-blind, placebo controlled trials. As it’s not, I’ll settle for a competently designed study – proper weighting, respect for error margin, that sort of thing.

“I doubt whether that would be enough as you’ll believe what you want to and countenance acceptable alternatives.”

You so don’t know what I’m about. If I’m wrong, I want to find out about it. Otherwise I’ll keep being wrong.

It`s interesting how discussions about unemployment on Left-wing websites neglect to raise the fundamentals:

1. Mass unemployment is essential to capitalism. As Keynesian economist Joan Robinson wrote in the Times in 1943:

“Unemployment is not a mere accidental blemish in a private enterprise economy. On the contrary, it is part of the essential mechanism of the system, and has a definite function to fulfill.
The first function of unemployment (which has always existed in open or disguised forms) is that it maintains the authority of master over man. The master has normally been in a position to say: “If you don’t want the job, there are plenty of others who do.” When the man can say: “If you don’t want to employ me, there are plenty of others who will,” the situation is radically altered.”
http://sites.roosevelt.edu/glanger/jrtimes-2/

2. The experiment with low unemployment between 1948 and 1970 was judged by the elites to be a failure, due to the working class gaining too much power.

A huge propaganda effort was made to reintroduce mass unemployment – and normalise it. This necessitated blaming higher levels of unemployment on the unemployed, rather than on the government policies of high interest rates and public spending cuts, which were used to deliberately increase unemployment.
http://thetruthaboutunemployment.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-reintroduction-of-mass-unemployment-in-the-1970s-80s/

15. Just Visiting

Jobseeker

you seem to be putting your own narrow perspective before reality.

Although any enterprise will benefit from low cost raw materials and low-cost staff costs (schools and hospitals too!) – there is nothing any one profit-motivatedCompany can do to create mass unemployment across the board. Certainly no such company would forego profit merely to increase wider unemployment!

So I don’t know what this thing is that you call (unhelpfully_ ‘capitalism’ that has consciousness: and has decided it wants mass unemployment – and by what mechanism it will achieve that goal!

Whether mass employment occurs or not – is a different matter.

But most glaringly – We’ve had a technology revolution since the articles you post.

Which means the work available now has a much smaller percentage of unskilled roles. There is real expertise and experience required to do many roles: and an employer will be motivated to keep happy such workers.

Aka – growth of the middle class, and the decrease in the 1940′s style working class

@14. JobSeeker: “As Keynesian economist Joan Robinson wrote in the Times in 1943…”

My objection is about selective quotation and description. Joan Robinson worked with Keynes which would coincide with the quote at point 1. Working with Keynes does not make her a follower of Keynes.

Point 1 is a damned good statement but it is clinical; human choices are not solely defined by economics.

I stole this from Wikipedia: “Also, Robinson made several trips to China, reporting her observations and analyses in China: An Economic Perspective (1958), The Cultural Revolution in China (1969), and Economic Management in China (1975; 3rd ed, 1976), in which she praised the Cultural Revolution. She also stated in reference to divided Korea that “[o]bviously, sooner or later the country must be reunited by absorbing the South into socialism.””

So not very liberal.

Just Visiting @15:

Notwithstanding the technology revolution, we`ve had a political revolution, initially known as Monetarism, now called Neo-Liberalism, characterised by the reintroduction & maintenance of what Milton Friedman called the “natural rate of unemployment”. The best illustration of what`s going on occurred in Summer 1998, when panic gripped the elites as they feared unemployment was drifitng below the “natural rate”. A Financial Times editorial published on September 11, 1998, entitled “Bank calls the turn” called for an increase in unemployment of up to half a million. Here`s the extract:

“unemployment must now be allowed to rise – perhaps by 500,000 – to bring the economy back to a non-inflationary path. To achieve this the Bank would need to lower rates very cautiously, until it is convinced that the domestic economy and private sector wages are responding to the treatment.”

On September 25, 1998, the BBC, at least on its website, if not on its broadcasts, had apparently decided to ditch its bogus claim to “balance” in an article entitled “Why unemployment has to rise”:

“the Bank of England recognises that, however painful, unemployment has to rise for the government to hit its inflation target. And the bank is determined to reach this goal.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/179455.stm

Or perhaps you`d prefer the words (straight from the horse`s mouth as it were) of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England – the minutes of MPC`s December 1997 meeting were very candid on which was the “best” type of unemployment, and why:

“The empirical evidence in general supported a more powerful role for short-term unemployment in putting downward pressure on wages. Some studies suggested that only short-term unemployment mattered. But recent Bank research had suggested that, although short-term unemployment was more important, the potential downward effect of long-term unemployment on wages should not be disregarded.”
http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/minutes/Documents/mpc/pdf/1997/mpc9712.pdf

Now perhaps you`ll understand why David Freud said in an interview in the Torygraph in February 2008 that “we should have recessions every five or six years and we are due one”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/1577313/Welfare-is-a-mess-says-adviser-David-Freud.html

The think-tank the “Resolution Foundation” produced a report in September entitled “What a Drag – The Chilling effect of unemployment on real wages” which shows that high unemployment is achieving what the 1% want to inflict on the 99% – namely a lowering of real wages.

Is it crystal clear to you now?

http://thetruthaboutunemployment.wordpress.com/2012/09/17/the-1990s-full-employability-replaces-full-unemployment/


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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  2. Lee Hyde

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  5. Lee Griffin

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  6. Glenn Floods

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  7. Sunny Hundal

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  36. Stephen Bishop

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    RT @sunny_hundal: Politicians say there are families with 3 generations out of work. Research shows they barely exist http://t.co/3FHP9wa7

  109. Jason West

    RT @sunny_hundal: Politicians say there are families with 3 generations out of work. Research shows they barely exist http://t.co/3FHP9wa7

  110. Dr Gill Gillespie

    They exist only in the mind of Murray v @jrf_uk: Where are the families with 3 generations out of work? http://t.co/eibpi1W0 #Liars

  111. Dr Gill Gillespie

    They exist only in the mind of Murray v @jrf_uk: Where are the families with 3 generations out of work? http://t.co/eibpi1W0 #Liars

  112. I.R.A.N.

    They exist only in the mind of Murray v @jrf_uk: Where are the families with 3 generations out of work? http://t.co/gjd5npEo #Liars

  113. I.R.A.N.

    They exist only in the mind of Murray v @jrf_uk: Where are the families with 3 generations out of work? http://t.co/gjd5npEo #Liars

  114. I.R.A.N.

    They exist only in the mind of Murray v @jrf_uk: Where are the families with 3 generations out of work? http://t.co/gjd5npEo #Liars

  115. Helen Swinger (YCH )

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F2Gbd0eR via @libcon

  116. Helen Swinger (YCH )

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F2Gbd0eR via @libcon

  117. Julian Buchanan

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F2Gbd0eR via @libcon

  118. Julian Buchanan

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F2Gbd0eR via @libcon

  119. Jolanta Wacyk

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F8JFUlM6

  120. Jolanta Wacyk

    Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/F8JFUlM6

  121. Liz Hannah

    “@jrf_uk: Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/aEupjsgJ via @libcon” @JosieLong

  122. Tony Bovaird

    Researchers unable to locate the mythical families 'with 3 generations who never worked' – cd only be minuscule number http://t.co/rRUdnDkc

  123. LivUniPolicy

    Researchers unable to locate the mythical families 'with 3 generations who never worked' – cd only be minuscule number http://t.co/rRUdnDkc

  124. Victoria Silver

    'culture of worklessness' hard to find @jrf_uk &
    http://t.co/GaZf76fs

  125. Exposed: the myth of a ‘culture of worklessness’ « Talesfromthelou's Blog

    [...] Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? (liberalconspiracy.org) [...]

  126. Rev. Roger T Pitman

    RT | Where are the families with three generations who’ve been out of work? http://t.co/qywks08y via @libcon @jrf_uk @libcon





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