01 SES 12 A, Professional Learning: International perspectives
Since 2008, with the economic recession, the economy of different world countries in relation to the labor market and the supply of employment worsened, which is defined as the increasing instability in both the economy and employment (Kalleberg, 2009). The loss of employment supposes a rupture that surpasses the economic, generating a crisis of identity in the person who suffers it and serious psychosocial consequences (Izquierdo, 2010). According to Woodward and Kawachi (1998) different studies has also shown that the relationship between unemployment and negative health outcomes is not the same and can fluctuate depending on different factors: gender, ethnicity, social support, financial circumstances, housing arrangements and previous work experiences.
In this study it is taken into account Moscovici’s theory of social representations (Moscovici, 1998) due to the fact that social representations explain human thinking as a communal process, rather than only as an individual enterprise. Social representations can be conceptualized as the shared ways of understanding unemployment within a specific social group (Purkhardt, 1993). These representations are created by people to situate themselves within the world and to be located within a certain society (Moscovici, 1994).
From this theoretical perspective of Moscovici, the thoughts and opinions of the individuals are defined as reflections of common forms that give meaning to the events that take place. In consequence, they are not individual characteristics or cognitive processes. Social representations are projects built in common that are unfinished and that are discussed when people use different explanations shared socially to extract meaning from issues under discussion, such as unemployment (Giddens, 1991).
The perspective centered on the person carries the individual responsibility implicit and can only solve specific situations of unemployment. On the contrary, Giddens' latest perspective involves notions of social responsibility and collective solutions for unemployment.
On the other hand, in the different labor markets, employability and learning have become relevant for all those who are unemployed. Thus, lifelong learning is essential for the successful transition of people in labor markets. Learning is considered a basic requirement to be employed. Each person must be responsible for their continuous training depending on the labor market they are in and the job they want to apply for. The individual’s initiative of having a permanent training makes the individual potentially more employable. In addition, being responsible for their learning, flexibility to adapt to each labor market is a key to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the market. The concept of lifelong learning now denotes the socio-economic need to mobilize and adapt human resources in the struggle for economic growth, productivity and competition (Shore, 2013).
Working and learning have always walked hand to hand. Learning occurs as individuals solve issues at work, as they exchange information, experiences and engage in joint experimentation in the job positions. It is in and through social interaction at work that we engage in learning activities. In order to make social inclusion possible, education, employment and a sense of belonging to a social group are considered essential (Bradshaw, Armour, & Roseborough, 2007). Furthermore, social support is crucial for enhancing social inclusion; those supports provide hope, encouragement and opportunities for social interaction (Spaniol, Wewiorski, Gagne, & Anthony, 2002). Davidson, Stayner, Nickou, Styron, & Chinman (2001) also identified three dimensions of social inclusion: experiences of friendships; feeling worthwhile through meaningful activities; and hopefulness.
Therefore, the main objective of this research is to carry out the study of the social representations and lifelong learning in unemployed people and to try to determine in which ways they work as tools for the social and labor inclusion.
56 Spanish unemployed (64.3% women and 35.7% men) participated voluntarily in this study. All questionnaires were filled on site. To analyze lifelong learning we use two measures; Intellectual Openness of Maturity Scale (Zacarés & Serra, 2000; in Nuñez, 2015) and Adult’s Ability to Adapt to Professional Changes (Zacarés, 2013) with two factors (predisposition for learning and openness to change). Intellectual Openness is a factor that contains 5 items (e.g. ‘I am a creative and imaginative person’) with a 5-point Likert scale and answers could range from 1 (It does not describe me well) to 5 (It describes me very well). Predisposition for Learning and Openness to Change contains 3 items and they had a 5-point Likert scales too (e.g. ‘When I need to know something at work I usually ask or ask to be taught’). To evaluate the unemployed meaning we used a test of free association of words (Rotter, 1996). The person can write spontaneously 3 words or expressions about unemployed. Basic descriptive statistical analyses were carried out in order to obtain the means and standard deviations values for the involved quantitative variables. To analyze the content, we used, as a categorization, the results of Cullen and Hodgetts (2001). Their results show that the meaning of unemployed is structured in three categories: unemployment as deviation from the norm, resisting victim blaming through the renegotiation of individual and structural explanation for employment and resisting the negative consequences of unemployment. Unemployment as deviation from the norm presented unemployed as a social force. Resisting victim blaming proposed that unemployed is guilty of their labor situation. The third category in resisting the negative consequences of unemployment assumes that unemployment is “an enemy that is wreaking havoc in people’s life” (pp. 44). We added one more category; this category is the social-economical responsibility and its actions. Two independent judges codified the items into the selected categories and the Cohen Kappa value exceeded 0.86, so very good agreement could be concluded (Altman, 1991). Later, we collected the strategy the person used in each behavior and we created three new variables to differentiate high and low in intellectual openness, predisposition for learning and openness to change. Basic descriptive statistical analyses and T-Test and Anova were carried out. All statistical analyzes were calculated using SPSS 22 software. Missing data on qualitative items were about 0.1% in the sample. These participants were excluded from the analyses.
The results showed that unemployed have scores ≤ 3.5 in intellectual openness, predisposition for learning and openness to change. We collected a total of 62 terms and a content analysis was conducted (61.3% unemployment as deviation from the norm, 6.45% resisting victim blaming through the renegotiation of individual and structural explanation for employment, 12.9% resisting the negative consequences of unemployment and 19.35 contextual responsibility). Univariate testing unemployment meanings for intellectual openness, predisposition for learning and openness to change did not showed significant effects. Moreover, women had lower intellectual openness that men but there were not unemployment meanings. So, our analysis demonstrates that social representation of Spanish unemployed over unemployment is, above all, as the consequences (e.g. economic failure, negative emotions, …) as social responsibility (e.g. crisis, social injustice, …). Moreover, unemployed Spaniards have low predisposition to lifelong learning and do not understand unemployed meaning as result of individual failings and invoked the virtues of fortitude. In conclusion, we can assure that the unemployed Spaniards elaborate a social representation of unemployment focused on the contextual causal factors rather than on the personal ones. Surely, as an adaptive coping strategy, although the unemployed find the negative effects of unemployment in their lives, they consider that it is not associated with their personal competences or attitudes. Consequently, their lifelong learning disposition is relatively low since it is not perceived as a key factor for the change of situation. Logically, an exclusively individual attribution of unemployment would be overly blaming, but acting on personal factors contributes to the expectation of control over their lives. Based on these results, the programs for employability should include the discussion of the structural and the individual in the social representations of unemployment and the development of a broader personal perspective centered on lifelong learning.
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