‘An acceptance that it’s just your lot, I suppose’: reflections on turbulent transitions between work and welfare

David McCollum


Employment policies have conventionally focused on the transition from welfare to work. However many of those who leave out of work benefits for employment return to them again relatively quickly, meaning that some people perpetually cycle between work and welfare for much of their working lives. This article focuses on the individuals making these precarious labour market transitions and on the narratives that they use when reflecting on them. A broad agency-structure analytical framework is used to demonstrate the role of individual and more ‘involuntary’ structural factors in the production and reproduction of economic marginalisation. These findings have implications for the extent to which ‘bad jobs’ and ‘bad workers’ are viewed as determinants of labour market disadvantage and for how policies to combat work-welfare cycling are formulated and critiqued.