The fragility of self-respect: emotional labour of workfare volunteering

Thomas Kampen , Judith Elshout, Evelien Tonkens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


This article contributes to our empirical understanding of self-respect in rising
meritocracies by focusing on the experiences of unemployed, low-skilled people recruited as workfare volunteers in the Netherlands. As many theorists have argued, the longterm unemployed struggle to maintain self-esteem. We found that workfare projects that introduce them to voluntary work can help them regain self-respect through four types of emotional labour: feeling respected through their newfound status, enjoying a craft, being able to perform in less stressful working environments, and taking pride in the meaning bestowed by voluntary work. But the emotional labour necessary to experience their situation more positively also increases the risk of experiencing negative emotions, thereby posing new threats to the fragile self-respect of unemployed citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)427-438
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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