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Dominant Contemporary Discourses About Work and Employment

There has been increased change in most dynamics of the world within the 20th and 21st centuries, and thus the perception of work and employment has evolved (Dicken, 2003). Therefore it is essential to understand the scope of work and employment over time; this paper serves the purpose of assessing the dominant contemporary discourses about work and employment and depicting how these discourses have facilitated disparity in the field of work and employment. The discourses discussed in this paper include Neoliberalism’s effects on the open markets; critical theory and societal disparities in employment; societal perceptions on individual choice of employment; and labor organizations’ advocacy for worker’s rights.

One dominant contemporary discourse of work and employment is Neo-liberalism and its effects on open markets; it is a discourse of work because it leads to disparity in employment and loss of unity among the workers. Neoliberalism is an economic ideology and a philosophy in politics that advocates for capitalism in a free market, individualism, and reduced regulations by the government in the production sector (Redden, 2019). The ideology focuses on personal responsibilities and self-reliance. It views unemployment as a result of the individual’s failure instead of focusing on the societal and governmental roles in the unemployment of the members of society (Crowley and Hudson, 2014). Therefore the philosophy proposes that the solution to unemployment is a competition to be the best option, reduction of governmental regulations, and elimination of social welfare programs, thus motivating people to work hard to make them marketable. Redden (2019) displays Neoliberalism’s outcomes as income inequality because it allows the top economic gurus to accumulate more wealth and power without interference by the government and other regulatory bodies, thus privatizing the market. In addition, Neoliberalism policies lead to the erosion of important welfare groups and regulatory bodies, which make it easier for the wealthy minority to oppress the minority less fortunate society members (Crowley & Hudson, 2014). Studies show that regulations are used to maintain and reduce the oppression of smaller groups by the bigger groups by inputting regulating issues such as overpricing and dictating the wages of various laborers. The lack of such regulatory policies makes the power and wealth in the society members oppress the less fortunate because there are no powers overseeing the production process regarding employment and work. It is conclusive that Neo-liberalism is a dominant contemporary discourse of work and employment in the world because it leads to disparity in economics and revenue. It is considered a discourse because the philosophy advocates for a free capital market that has no regulations by the government, which means the markets are privatized. It affects equality in work and employment as lack of regulation in a sector means the main players have an advantage over the minor players as there are no rules to be followed in the business operation. Despite the displayed advantages of neo-liberalism, it has more negative effects on equality in employment. It works as it advocates for a non-regulated mode of production that favors the private sector largely.

Another dominant contemporary discourse in work and employment is the critical theory and its analysis of the societal role in disparities in work and employment; the ideology of critical theory argues that the distribution of power creates social inequalities and that society plays a part in facilitating these disparities thus considering its critical analysis as a contemporary discourse in work and employment. A study by Jenkins (2013) shows that the labor market is unfair because the business model used in contemporary society advocates for egalitarianism that facilitates the unjust distribution of resources. Such a society’s perception of employment is brought about by the cultural values and beliefs of many regions of the world that instills capitalistic models of the economy in the mind of individuals. The critical theory in work and employment gives insight into the societal understanding and comprehension of work issues such as labor exploitation, workplace disparities, and economic inequalities among societal groups (Blustein et al., 2012). The theory displays the lack of social justice in society; thus, strategies to address the issue are necessary. Society plays a role in these disparities in that unfair power domination is manufactured by society. It affects many minorities as the powerful groups accumulate more wealth at the expense of their workers. Furthermore, democratic societies choose their leaders, who in turn make policies on behalf of the entire society; therefore, the unjust policies enacted are a product of the society’s voting choice; thus, it is responsible for the disparity in the work and employment sector, which oppresses the minority. Qualitative studies prove that most psychological discourse of the unemployed results from various external social barriers. For instance, many people recorded that they had once been excluded from a job search because of physical constraints such as sex, race, age, color, and class (Blustein et al., 2012). These social constraints put in place by society have impacted the work and employment sector by creating a rift between people who benefit from the nation’s economy and those who do not.

Another dominant contemporary discourse of work and employment is the societal perception of the type of work its members undertake in that some occupations have been dubbed useless jobs. In contrast, others are highly respected in society. It is a discourse in work and employment because it addresses how people make decisions concerning their careers and the mode of employment they desire to engage in. Contemporary society views an individual’s employment as a representation of their values, interests, and abilities; thus, societal-oriented individuals tend to choose their type of employment because of societal expectations (Stiglitz, 2019). Also, societal perceptions shape the impacts of structural employment factors such as gender, race, religion, and class. Society affects the career path of many people due to its view of certain forms of employment as useless jobs while others are highly appreciated (Kazi and Akhlaq, 2017). Individuals are thus forced to follow the wish of society rather than being responsible for their careers, which makes employment unjust to such individuals concerning their society; their backgrounds are unjust to their wants, and thus the disparity in employment and work is facilitated by societal expectations. Such societies have made individuals hate their jobs since they did not meet societal expectations (Stiglitz, 2019). Society, however, insists on useless jobs making employees reluctant to attend to their daily work, especially the new jobs in the market today. Kazi and Akhlaq (2017) show the collapse of people employed in domestic servants and industry fields while other positions, such as managerial, clerical, and services workers, increased within the last century. This shift is an indicator of laying interest in certain types of work and reduced interest in others which is a product of societal perception of the individual’s job. Therefore it is conclusive that the perception of society on the type of work its member is a discourse of work and employment and facilitates injustice within the field of work and employment. It is because societies force people to make career choices they do not like, thus leading to poor performance and obstructing the individual’s right to career choice.

The final dominant contemporary discourse of work and employment is the role of labor movements in advocating for their members’ rights in the field of employment and work. Labor organizations and welfare groups advocate for the rights of laborers and their protection and promote their well-being in matters such as wages, benefits, working conditions, safety and security, and collective bargaining (Compa and Vogt, 2000). The labor and welfare movements are a discourse to work and employment. They define the importance of unity and partnership to attain social and economic justice for all the workers who are members of the movement. They thus empower the employees by offering them a platform to raise their concerns, fight for their rights, and negotiate with employers and other governmental bodies on behalf of these employees (Compa and Vogt, 2000). The study further postulates that the essence of the labor and welfare movements advocating for the rights of their members is based on the realization that employees are always in conflict with their employers. Thus they need a collective initiative to represent their wants before the employers to balance the power dynamic between the two groups. Labor organizations also show the importance of certain social factors in business, for instance, globalization, income inequality, working contains, and technological change; thus, considering these factors enables employees to comprehend their occupation better and note any form of oppression within the business process. In addition, the welfare organizations lead the employees to protests to advocate for their rights as a reaction to change in work-related policies (Baker and Davies, 2018). Protest is the most effective method of compelling the authority to listen to the workers’ claims and, in the past, has caught leaders’ attention. The purpose of welfare and labor organizations is to ensure that despite the workers’ grievances varying depending on the location and type of Company, they are all aligned on the same front to advocate for better working conditions and wages. However, not all protests by labor organizations bear fruits as the protestants are threatened by the authority with sanctions and loss of jobs, thus creating a disparity in the field of work and employment.

In conclusion, the change in the dynamics of the world has forced many issues regarding employment and work to evolve and, thus, the rise of dominant contemporary discourses in work and employment. Neoliberalism is a major discourse in work and employment and affects economic justice by advocating for a free market in capitalism with reduced government regulations; this is a means of privatizing markets that makes the poor suffer while the rich accumulate wealth. The critical theory concerning society and economics displays society as the manufacturer of the vices that lead to economic disparity. In addition, another contemporary discourse of work and employment is the societal perception of the type of employment an individual has; society shapes some people’s careers, and as the individual attains the societal expectation, their freedom of career choice is obstructed by this society. The role of labor movements is a discourse of work and employment in that these entities are depicted as advocates of the rights and well-being of workers. They apply strategies such as protests to ensure the worker’s voices are heard.

Table: Infographic for human service and social work practitioners working with unemployed clients that debunks problematic discourses and reinforces constructive discourses about work and unemployment.

Problematic Discourses of Work and Employment Constructive Discourses about Work and Unemployment
· Some mythical facts claim that unemployed people are lazy and do not want to work; however, the reality is that most people are seeking employment opportunities but are constantly prejudiced by the system (Nazir et al., 2009). Also, limited access to education and training leads to a lack of employment.

· In some societies, unemployment is viewed as a personal failure and shows a lack of effort; however, unemployment is caused by various economic reasons like automation and globalization, which means even the most trained experts can face unemployment (Campa, 2015).

· There is the belief that work is good for people and the entire community; however, study shows that work is exploitative, dangerous, and harms the well-being of people.

· Considering that unemployment occurs to anybody, it is crucial to use the experience to avoid prejudicing the unemployed client with the social worker’s engagement.

· During unemployment, individuals are likely to undergo stress and other life challenges. Therefore it is crucial to understand the emotional effects of unemployment on people and provide support to cope with the resulting anxiety and other mental instabilities (Nazir et al., 2009).

· Employment is the only way people can be satisfied and live stress-free because it assures them of financial security, stability, and, thus, economic fulfillment. Thus, a social worker must aid clients in coping with these challenges via moral support.


Baker, T., & Davis, C. (2018). Everyday resistance to workfare: welfare beneficiary advocacy in Auckland, New Zealand. Social Policy and Society17(4), 535-546.

Blustein, D. L., Medvide, M. B., & Wan, C. M. (2012). A critical perspective of current unemployment policy and practices. Journal of Career Development39(4), 341-356.

Campa, R. (2014). Technological growth and unemployment: A global scenario analysis. Journal of evolution and technology24(1).

Compa, L., & Vogt, J. S. (2000). Labor rights in the generalized system of preferences: A 20-year review. Comp. Lab. L. & Pol’y J.22, 199.

Crowley, M., & Hodson, R. (2014). Neoliberalism at work. Social Currents1(1), 91-108.

Dicken, P. (2003). Global shift: Reshaping the global economic map in the 21st century. Sage.

Jenkins, B. (2013). The social construction of welfare (2013HSV) – Griffith University. Griffith University.

Kazi, A. S., & Akhlaq, A. (2017). Factors Affecting Students’ Career Choice. Journal of Research & Reflections in Education (JRRE)11(2).’_Career_Choice/links/5ba0ab3c299bf13e6038e19d/Factors-Affecting-Students-Career-Choice.pdf

Nazir, F., Cheema, M. A., Zafar, M. I., & Batool, Z. (2009). Socio-economic impacts of unemployment in urban Faisalabad, Pakistan. Journal of Social Sciences18(3), 183-188.

Redden, G. (2019). John Howard’s investor-state: Neoliberalism and the rise of inequality in Australia. Critical Sociology45(4-5), 713-728.

Stiglitz, J. (2019). People, power, and profits: Progressive capitalism for an age of discontent. Penguin UK.


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