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Scrap Iron and Old Stagers

Constructions of Old Age in Unemployment


Florentine Maier

The study won the 2008 Dr. Maria Schaumayer Foundation Award and the 2008 Award of Excellence of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research.
When older workers become unemployed, they face considerable obstacles in the labour market. Often they are depicted as too old to work but too young to retire. This study is based on six months of ethnographic fieldwork at the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS). By means of discourse analysis, the study shows the breadth of images available for older unemployed, ranging from unemployable «scrap iron» to savvy «old stagers». Implications of these images in peoples everyday life and in the wider context of labour market policy are explored.
Contents: Literature Review – Refinement of Research Questions and Clarification of Theoretical Concepts – Epistemological Issues – Discourses of Old Age – Societal Functions of Age-related Subject Positions – Discourses of Unemployment – Relationships between Age-related Subject Positions and Discourses of Unemployment – Interactional Functions of Age-related Subject Positions – Counsellors’ Use of Age-related Subject Positions.