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Empowering the ‘Unemployed’: Representations of Unemployment in Australian Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISEs)

This study explores the extent to which the claim that work integration social enterprises (WISEs) empower people experiencing unemployment is reflected in their use of language. It proposes a typology of narratives about unemployment – the ‘supported client’, ‘driven trainee’ and ‘capable worker’ narratives. These narratives, in this order, form a continuum from least to most empowering, with disempowering representations of ‘the unemployed’ being most prevalent in the Australian social enterprise sector. Key insights: - Many Australian WISEs contribute to the disempowering representations of ‘the unemployed’, reinforcing narratives about unemployment that are common in the charity sector and in neoliberal government discourses. - The ideologies reflected in WISEs’ use of language suggest that they should be theorised as adaptations of the charity model of ‘hand-outs’, or complements to work obligation policy approaches. - WISEs risk perpetuating disempowering ideologies when they fail to acknowledge structural, rather than individual, determinants of unemployment. Read more about Jane Chen’s research on WISEs at:

Related tags

  • Australia
  • Employment & careers
  • Economic
  • Social entrepreneurs



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