An occupational perspective of short-term unemployment
Dunn, Tim J.
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This qualitative study explores the experiences of occupational engagement during short term unemployment, which is defined as being less than six months in duration. It specifically explores the lived experiences of unemployment and occupational engagement from the stories of six young adults living in a major city of New Zealand. Research participation was voluntary and all volunteers were recruited from one office of Work and Income New Zealand. They identified themselves as individuals who had been receiving the unemployment benefit for six months or less, and had a desire to return to employment. The experience of unemployment was a novel state in that they all had an occupational history in which employment was the norm. Data was collected over a four month period in the form of semi-structured audio-taped interviews that inquired about how unemployment had affected their daily occupational engagement in all categories of occupations (leisure, self maintenance and productivity). Data analysis was then conducted over a further four months using thematic analysis, guided by phenomenological assumptions as described by van Manen. The four main themes that emerged from the data analysis are presented as: 1) The freedom of unemployment, 2) Falling off, 3) Feelings of needing more than this and 4) I’ll get going eventually. The findings are discussed in relation to the four existentials of ‘lifeworld’ suggested by van Manen. These are lived space (spatiality), lived body (corporeality), lived time (temporality) and lived other (relationality). The findings suggest that the experience of short term unemployment affected all aspects of the participants daily occupational engagement. Participant experiences reflected that all of the four existentials of ‘lifeworld’ were impacted upon during short term unemployment. Occupational therapy and occupational science paradigms would suggest, from this study, that fundamental concepts of unemployment needing to be addressed are daily structure, goals, and engagement in occupation that has meaning or purpose for the individual without the experience of employment. I would suggest that further research is required to explore the process and common themes that emerged from the data analysis of this study.