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Social Policy Review 25Analysis and debate in social policy, 2013$
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Gaby Ramia, Kevin Farnsworth, and Zoe Irving

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9781447312741

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447312741.001.0001

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‘What unemployment means’ three decades and two recessions later

‘What unemployment means’ three decades and two recessions later

(p.207) Eleven ‘What unemployment means’ three decades and two recessions later
Social Policy Review 25

Adrian Sinfield

Policy Press

The section begins with Adrian Sinfield's exploration of ‘what unemployment means’. In 1981, when Sinfield's book of this title was first published, the UK was in the early stages of a massive political and economic transformation. Three decades and two recessions later, as the chapter demonstrates, we see some differences but many similarities in the patterns and impact of unemployment. The current recession may be regarded as a problem of ‘growth’ rather than industrial restructuring, but, as Sinfield argues, the trend towards insecurity has its roots in the latter and the political project pursued during that formative period. Consequently, most of the social divisions of unemployment apparent in the 1980s endure today: divisions of ethnicity, regional impact, the cumulative effects of limited opportunities to acquire skills and the preponderance of low pay remain obvious. As the chapter concludes, the long-term effects on society of persistent and high unemployment are grave, all the more so when combined with a curtailment of social protection and a politics of division.

Keywords:   Unemployment, Recession, Skills, Insecurity, 1980s, Ethnicity, Regional impact, Limited opportunities, Low pay, Social protection

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