"You Got to Make the Numbers Work": Negotiating Managerial Reforms in the Provision of Employment Support Service
Neoliberal activation logic has intensified in the employment services sector, accompanied by austerity measures and new public management (NPM). We report findings from the Canadian site of a collaborative ethnographic study addressing the negotiation of longterm unemployment, specifically focusing on local-scale implications of administrative reforms to employment service delivery. Informed by street-level bureaucracy and governmentality, we demonstrate how the articulation of managerialism in activation-focused employment services and the emphasis on ‘making the numbers work’ results in a series of inter-related effects, including: work intensification; reconfiguration of key relationships; and heightened insecurity. Simultaneously, frontline staff engage in forms of service provision unaccounted for under official metrics, but central to their perceptions of service users’ needs. Our analysis confirms the necessity of ethnographic approaches to documenting street level enactment of, and resistance to, neoliberal governmentalities.
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