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The Stigma of Unemployment

New four year unemployment study finds the majority of unemployed people will do whatever it takes to find a job and corrosive effect of stigma that blames them for their unemployment.

Researchers found people spend “huge amounts of time and effort” on trying to get a job opportunity and there was no evidence that the vast majority of people who are unemployed don’t want to work.

Dr Michelle Peterie and Professor Greg Marston both from the School of Social Sciences at the University of Queensland recently spoke on ABC Radio National about the study which will be published early in 2020.

The study also found social stigma around unemployment had a “highly corrosive negative impact” on people’s social and emotional well-being.  Many of the study’s participants reported poorer mental health including increased anxiety, depression and feelings of worthlessness.

People who are unemployed felt others looked down on them as it “reduced their ability to stay positive and present well to employers”. Experiences of stigma and shame could also lead to them withdrawing from their social circles. “This is concerning as social networks play an important role in helping people to get work.”

The study includes in-depth interviews with 80 people from across urban and rural Australia who have been out of work for at least 12 months. Surveys were conducted of 700 unemployed people and 1200 people who were not unemployed in order to ascertain the difference in the day-to-day lives of these two groups.

The researchers said the two groups experienced huge differences and for the people relying on unemployment payments, “just trying to survive is very difficult”. You can listen to the fullinterview on Life Matters.

Contact apw@antipovertyweek.or.au for links to articles that have been published  to date, including  ‘To Move or Not to Move: Mobility Decision-Making in the Context of Welfare Conditionality and Paid Employment’.