England & Wales Democracy, devolution and governance , HR, workforce and communications , Welfare and equalities

Are Cultures of Worklessness’ Passed Down the Generations?



The aim of the research project from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation on which this report is based was to examine whether an ‘intergenerational culture of worklessness’ exists and whether it plays a role in determining high and persistent levels of worklessness. It was carried out because the authors claim that the notion is popular among policy makers, the media, and the general public.

The research methodology involved locating families in which worklessness had persisted through generations and interviewing family members about their attitudes to work and welfare.

In the event, finding families where family members from more than one generation had never worked proved extremely difficult. This supported the authors’ conclusion that the notion of an ‘intergenerational culture of worklessness’ lacks any basis in fact. Growing up in deprived or disadvantaged families, not a ‘culture of welfare dependency’ is the main factor explaining poor employment outcomes for some people.

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