The construction of the category of unemployed young people with no qualifications in Switzerland : A looping effect?

Eva Nada


This paper explores the process of the rationalization of activation policies towards unemployed young people in Switzerland. It aims at analysing the mechanism of normalization for the criterion of “unqualified” among unemployed young people with no qualifications. Empirical observations show the growing difficulties for personal counsellors to categorize an increasingly heterogeneous population of young unemployed people. These difficulties crystallize themselves with the definition of the criterion “unqualified”, thereby ushering in a new activation measure that appraises the school- and psychological aptitudes of young people. This measure partially determines the eligibility of the unemployed young people and participates in producing a norm of the “right measure” in relation to the level of “unqualification”. The concept of “looping effect “ developed by Ian Hacking was used to analyse the mechanism of transformation of the category and its effects on the identities of both young people and the front line agents. The paper discusses how to apply a philosophical concept to the sociology of categorization in order to deepen our understanding of activation policies within the changing scene of European social policy.

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JCSW was founded in 2006 and is currently hosted by University of Stavanger, in cooperation with University of Agder and Nord University. From 2010 onwards it is published bi-anually.

ISSN: 0809-9936