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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The experience of unemployment in primary wage earners Edwards, David


This study investigated, through a phenomenological mode of inquiry, the experience of unemployment amongst primary wage earners who have experienced non-performance related, involuntary job loss. This study also sought to determine if the experience of unemployment had changed over the preceding thirty years by comparing its findings from figurative illustrations to those of Borgen and Amundson (1987). The association between unemployment and negative mental health, coupled with changes in cultural and work-related attitudes and the absence of studies similar to Borgen and Amundson (1987), provided the rationale for this study. Participants were six adult men and women who had lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Individual interviews, followed-up by post-analysis member checks, were conducted with each participant. Six main themes, and 12 subthemes, emerged from data analysis. The main themes were: (1) anticipation of and immediate response to job loss; (2) positive emotional responses to job loss; (3) negative emotional responses to job loss; (4) job search and financial challenges; (5) support; and (6) emergent optimism and problem solving. Three trends were found to the figurative illustrations, with elements that were both similar to and different from those in Borgen and Amundson (1987). Of note, all of the participants’ initial responses to job loss differed from the 1987 comparison group. This was attributable to participants either being accustomed to job loss, or to having initial post-employment plans in place. This study contributes to the understanding of the experience of unemployment, and provides suggestions for those in the helping profession who work with those who are currently, or at risk of becoming, unemployed. Implications for future research are also discussed.

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