Abstracts: June 1st, 2011

This report from DWP presents the findings of research into the way work is viewed by the unemployed. The interviewees were segmented by their attitudes and beliefs.

The overwhelming majority of interviewees definitely want to or would prefer to be in work in the next three months. But beneath this view there were different attitudes.

Some 17 per cent were determined job seekers. They were confident and driven, aiming to get back to work as quickly as possible – whatever it takes.

Some 14 per cent were thwarted seekers. They were confident, motivated and had a sense of control but are in decline as they worry about a future without work. They struggled emotionally and financially without a job. They feel work is an essential part of life and are embarrassed by not having a job. As their efforts to find work go unrewarded, they feel increasingly powerless and disheartened.

Some 11 per cent are balanced seekers. They believe that work is a key part of a balanced life but job search is less urgent as they make the most of the benefits of not working. Paid work has played a key part in their lives to date. They believe work is important and are confident they will find another job. However, they are not defined by work and they are able to make the most of the benefits of not working and enjoy the moment, as long as they believe that the situation is temporary. They fully intend to work again but their search is not possessed of real urgency.

Some 9 per cent are status quo seekers. They feel that to work or claim benefits is simply a choice individuals should be free to make – there is no right or wrong about it. They will work if the ‘right job’ comes along.

Some 13 per cent are constrained by circumstance. They feel trapped by personal circumstances that make ‘normal’ work seem impractical – desire the job ‘in a million’ that can fit in around them. They have worked before and have a strong desire to work again, but they do not see how they can. In their minds, their personal circumstances have rendered work extremely unlikely. Jobs may exist but they feel that they are effectively excluded from them by practical considerations, as well as by the perceived attitude of employers. They feel trapped in a life they did not choose and feel ‘looked down on’ by society.

Some 11 per cent are defeated by circumstance. They have a lack of belief in their capability means they have resigned themselves to life without work. Their confidence has declined over a long period of unemployment and they lack belief in their own capability to work. They have given up on the idea of working and fully understand why, as they perceive it, employers would not want to hire them. They have accepted where they are and have adjusted to this reality. They may not like their situation but it has become familiar and ‘safe’.

Some 11 per cent believe benefits are better. They feel fully justified being on benefits and believe they have discovered that life without the added complication of work has much to recommend it. They lead what they consider to be full, busy lives and feel completely entitled to live on benefits as they think they already have enough going on without work. As they do not tend to have positive work experiences to draw on, they do not believe that the benefits (money) would outweigh the drawbacks (stress).

Some 11 per cent lack confidence in their ability to hold down a job They believe in putting family first. They have found what they feel is an alternative and more satisfying purpose in life so do not feel ‘out of work’ – there is no void to fill. They are happy and content, their family is happy and content – they do not believe that work could improve things.

The segmentation model outlined in the report demonstrates that the out-of-work audience can be segmented by attitudes, beliefs and behaviour towards work. It give an insight into the wide range of influences acting on DWP customers’ decisions in relation to work and job seeking. It also allows DWP to view their customer base from a different perspective, one that is not defined by benefit or life stage.

The report can be downloaded here.