Dole or drudgery? Morality, materialism and choosing between employment and Jobseekers’ Allowance -PhD thesis-

Publication type

Thesis/Degree/Other Honours


Publication date

June 1, 2008


This thesis is a study of the role played by morality and materialism in people’s choices between doing paid work and claiming unemployment benefits (Jobseekers’ Allowance or JSA). It is particularly concerned with jobseeking and the lower status, badly paid and monotonous jobs which are often referred to as ‘mcjobs’. The choice between undertaking such work and claiming JSA is referred to throughout as the ‘dole or drudgery’ dilemma. It is hypothesised that both morality and materialism can play a part in this decision-making. Those who take considerable pride in being employed and not claiming benefits are expected to be more likely than others to choose ‘drudgery’ over ‘dole’. Likewise, those who emphasise the importance of material possessions, or consider benefit income to constitute severe poverty, are also predicted to be more likely than others to choose the ‘drudgery’ option. After reviewing existing literature and analysing current welfare policy, the empirical part of the thesis employs a ‘mixed methods’ approach. This establishes general patterns (the ‘extensive’ work) and investigates the processes leading to those patterns by examining the individual in an in-depth way (the ‘intensive’ research). The ‘extensive’ research is a secondary analysis of the most appropriate existing datasets - the British Household Panel Survey and the British Social Attitudes Survey, which establishes correlations between personal values and the categories of employed and unemployed. The ‘intensive’ research is 50 in-depth interviews with five groups of unemployed and employed people, chosen because of their diversity regarding values and levels of employability.



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