Hollowing out ascriptive person categories: the concept of ‘employability’, its usage by public employment services and its effect on clients’ categorization (completed)

Christine Weinbach


Employability is a powerful instrument passed on by politics to public employment services (PES) as ‘people-processing organisations’ (Hasenfeld 1972), which are seen as enablers dealing with the expectations of the labour market. By enabling their clients to become employable individuals, these enablers impose expectations on their clients and thus hollow out expectations linked to ascriptive person categories like gender and ethnicity. The present project focuses on the re-categorisation work of PES staff in German job centres. The empirical basis is qualitative data – expert interviews and transcribed mediation talks between staff and clients – which were collected as part of a DFG-funded research project at the University of Potsdam.

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