Researchers: Unemployment Opens up a Window on a Wider Social Change
Lisa Adkins, Katariina Mäkinen and Mona Mannevuo work in the Social Science for the C21st project, which combines sociology, cultural studies, working life research and economics.

​The Social Science for the C21st project explores employment activation policies. It focuses on the current measures and trials in Finland funded by the state, municipalities or the EU to activate and encourage the unemployed to take responsibility for their employment.

– We study the economic and affective dimensions of these activation measures: how the different techniques define the price and availability of labour and how, on the other hand, they affect the experience of unemployment, says Project Research Fellow Mona Mannevuo.

Professor Lisa Adkins points out that the different employment measures in fact put the unemployed into a different social and legal position from the rest of the population.

– This is happening everywhere in the world, Adkins says.

According to studies, employment activation measures emphasise the role of the unemployed person as an enterprising actor who carries the risk himself or herself, and produce cheap labour for the use of deregulated and flexible labour markets.

– At the moment, the social debate on unemployment focuses on the qualities of the unemployed: whether their efforts to find work are sufficient, whether they possess adequate skills. This kind of debate also steers political decision-making, Adkins continues.

The researchers emphasise that employment activation is part of the change in the relationship between the economy and society. According to them, unemployment should be seen as an active state of change rather than as the opposite of employment. The project therefore wants to participate in the redefinition of work.

– If we manage to redefine work, we may also be able to find new solutions to unemployment, Adkins says.

Today’s Finland an Example of Rapid Change

According to the FiDiPro Professor, Finland is a very fruitful research environment for exploring the subject.

– Historically, Finland has had a stronger social contract than many other advanced democracies. Now it is dissolving at great speed – practically in front of our eyes while our project is ongoing. We can witness and trace a change in Finnish society, in which economic actors and increased efficiency are working in areas of life to which they have traditionally not belonged.

The project is based on Finnish material, but it is linked to the global infrastructure in which for example the EU, OECD and the World Bank steer the ways in which different countries deal with unemployment.

– Exploring unemployment and employment is a window on larger social changes. It helps us understand how the relationships between the economy and society are changing, says Katariina Mäkinen, the other Research Fellow in the project.

The project looks at Finnish society at close range.

– It is important for us to also produce non-technical material based on our study in Finnish. We write research articles in English, but we will also write a non-technical book in Finnish for those who are interested in this subject,  Mannevuo says.

FiDiPro Brings New Ideas to the Finnish Research Field

Social Science for the C21 project, a project that combines sociology, cultural studies, working life research, and economics started in 2015 and will continue to 2019. The FiDiPro programme (Finland Distinguished Professor Programme) aims to strengthen Finnish scientific expertise, internationalise the Finnish research system as well as to support the profiling of universities and research institutes.

– The foundation of this FiDiPro project is a team that not only conducts research but also organises events, workshops and seminars. The idea is to provide new scientific openings and bring people together, Lisa Adkins says.

According to Mona Mannevuo and Katariina Mäkinen, a FiDiPro project is an excellent work opportunity for a post doc researcher.

– Here we get a chance to create new contacts and international networks. What makes this project special is that we conduct the study as a team, not working in separate subprojects, Mannevuo and Mäkinen say.

The leader of the project, Lisa  Adkins, is a FiDiPro Professor shared by the universities of Turku and Tampere from 2015 to 2019. Adkins is an internationally recognised sociologist, who combines social science theories, feminist research theory and economics in an innovative way in her research. She has recently studied especially the financial crisis and unemployment as a social phenomenon. The professorship is hosted by the universities of Turku and Tampere.

Project website:

Text: Taru Suhonen
Photo: Hanna Oksanen
Translation: Lingsoft

Published date 4/8/2016 12:10 AM ,  Modified date 4/8/2016 12:12 PM

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