‘They said I wasn’t sick enough’: pain as negotiation in workfare
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionNordic Social Work Research. 2021, 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1080/2156857X.2021.1958909
Women with migration experience from non-European countries living in Norway question the degree to which workfare is beneficial to their participation in working life. Welfare-workers regard ‘immigrant women’ as a particularly difficult group to assist with their transition into employment. Based on ethnographic observation of more than fifty meetings, interviews, and other qualitative sources, this paper explores one specific reason why these processes seldom succeed. Diffuse pain dominates the lives of many women, a situation not fully understood nor accommodated medically, socially or in terms of welfare rights. The welfare system fails, by and large, to offer solutions that address real-life challenges. A better understanding of pain in its communicative aspect is necessary to promote the participation of women – and particularly those with migration experience – in workfare. The paper’s point of departure is a pivotal moment in the jobseeker Amina’s workfare process. A case study is developed to show how pain can make women feel obliged to act according to a certain ‘script’ to be able to negotiate welfare outcomes. Pain is a major hindrance to working life and it is important to understand more about this in the welfare context.