Theses defended

Práticas sociais face ao desemprego: um estudo sobre a criação do próprio emprego

Joana Almeida

Public Defence date
February 26, 2018
Doctoral Programme
Labour Relations, Social Inequalities and Trade Unionism
Pedro Hespanha e Cristina Maria Pinto Albuquerque
The creation of self-employment by unemployed individuals is a challenging problem, upon which it is imperative to reflect critically. From the conceptual point of view, it fits in the analysis of the panorama of the great modifications undergone in the last years in the labor relations. The democratic liberation of 25 April 1974, and the opening up of the Portuguese economy to the global markets with the entry into the European Union, give the present research a specific framework for the study of the phenomenon of self-employment in Portugal, that needs to be problematized. Taking into account that Portugal has always registered high levels of self-employment, since the 1980s there has been an increase in this type of work. However, the contours that framed this new impulse portray an autonomous work distinct from what Portugal was accustomed to. Fueled by the wave of massive collective redundancies that occurred in the mid-1990s in the transformative industry, this autonomous work denounces a specificity that should be analyzed within this research. Having as a study object the transition processes that are implemented by the unemployed, either in the sense of creating one's own job or by choosing other types of adaptive strategies after a situation of collective dismissal, the present study aimed to analyze the phenomenon of self-employment from this specific historical and social context in Portugal. The disconcerting paradoxes of the current professional world, where unemployment and job insecurity punctuate, create conditions for increasing inequalities and social injustices. In this context, the entrepreneurial action has been presented as one of the possible ways to solve the problem of unemployment. However, from a conceptual point of view, as well as from social intervention practices, this topic has shown to be very complex and practical insufficient. Based on the thematic analysis of the content of interviews with a group of unemployed people from collective redundancies in industrial enterprises in the Coimbra region, in the 1990s and the first decade of this century, and using the procedures of the qualitative methodology of the case study, we tried to highlight the motivations and the processes, which in some cases led to the creation of their self-employment, and in others to other ways of overcoming the unemployment situation. Socio-demographic analyzes of the participants were carried out in the sense of profiling and biographical sketches were drawn, as well as socio-organizational analyzes of business contexts during collective dismissal processes, understood as processes of social / professional selection. It was verified by the data analysis, using the Bourdieusian approach as an analytical tool, that the different trajectories / strategies of change in the labor field resulted from an intricate process of interactions between the habitus and the capitals of the participants. The transition that took place along the time of transition from the unemployment to other situations, namely in terms of the creation of one's own employment, constituted a relational and systemic interaction between the dimensions of the individual agency and the social structure, that produced different social practices in the labor field, embodied within a diversity of patterns of overcoming unemployment. We conclude that the trajectories after collective dismissal result from the confluence between factors located at the micro, meso and macrosocial levels. At the micro-social level, we list factors such as the age and length of service of the interviewees at the time of the collective dismissal and the socio-affective networks of the participants. At the mezzo-social level, we identified the social policies that were mobilized as important resources to achieve the objectives underlying the chosen trajectories; these are the financing of self-employment, the support for retraining the unemployed, and the social protection in old age after fulfilling the requirements of age and contributory career. At the macro-social level, it was possible to identify a set of broader societal trends at European and national level, such as the economic crisis, tertiarization and the flexibilization of the economy. The interaction between these factors has allowed us to understand that, from the sociological point of view, different identities in terms of habitus (semi-proletarians and / or peasants-workers), as well as different dynamics around cultural and social capitals, are the ground for the construction of diverse patterns of positional changes in the labor field. In short, the creation of self-employment does not correspond to an abstract myth about entrepreneurship skills, but to a complex process of building social practices. From the results, reflections on conceptual, social intervention and methodological implications are also extracted.

Keywords: Unemployment - Self-employment - Social practices - Agency vs. Structure