“It’s a game, you've got to play the game”: Motivation and ‘Being Employable’ in Ontario Unemployment Supports

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Prentice, Rachel




This thesis research analyses and explores the ways neoliberal conceptualizations of individual responsibility are embedded in practices of becoming employable. This occurs through provision of employment services, which reflect neoliberalization in funding policy documents. An ethnographic case study was conducted in one agency providing job-seeking assistance and services to unemployed Ontarians in a region experiencing high unemployment. Research methods included participant observation of the processes of service provision, as well as interviews with seventeen unemployed job-seekers. During field research, the concept motivation emerged as a mechanism for filtering whether job-seeking clients are suitable for receiving provincially-funded employment resources. Definitions of motivation in funding policy documents embody a neoliberal rhetoric that positions individuals as ‘agents’ responsible for enacting willingness and flexibility to engage in the labour market. Findings suggest that definitions and interpretations of the concept motivation lead to practices that delegitimize disincentives to employment, thus exacerbating demotivation.


Public and Social Welfare
Sociology - Organizational
Canadian Studies




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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