Welfare Conditionality and Blaming the Unemployed Academic Article uri icon


  • Welfare recipients are increasingly subject to various forms of work-related conditionality that, critics argue, presuppose a “pathological” theory of unemployment that stigmatizes welfare recipients as de-motivated to work. Drawing on surveys of Australian frontline employment services staff, we examine the extent to which caseworkers attribute being on benefits to recipients’ lack of motivation, and whether this problem figuration of unemployment is associated with a “harder edged” approach to activation. We find that it is, although it is diminishing. This reflects how frontline discretion has become more routinized from the application of more intensive forms of performance monitoring and compliance auditing.

publication date

  • March 1, 2020