liu.seSearch for publications in DiVA
Change search
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • oxford
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf
The activation paradigm and emotions in welfare bureaucratic work: The role of numerical targets in shaping the ideal caseworker at the Swedish Social Insurance Agency
Linköping University, Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning, Education and Sociology. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

A critical task of sickness insurance policy in most Western welfare states during recent decades has been to reduce the economic burden on society due to sick leave, by stimulating labour market participation. Activation policies have gained strong support, and activities that prevent the “disability benefit trap” are favored by international organizations such as the OECD and EU as well as national governments. A common statement in policy documents is that “the longer people are off work due to illness, the less likely it is that they will return to work”. Work per se assumed to have a therapeutic effect, leading to good health and well-being. In line with this development, the Swedish center-left government in 2016 introduced a numerical target –and a very exact one – regarding the sickness absence rate in Sweden; it is stated that “the sickness benefit rate may not exceed 9.0 days per individual and per year in 2020”. Further, it is stressed that “newly granted disability pension shall not exceed 18 000 per year during the period 2016-2020”. The targets are part of a governmental “action plan for improved health and reduced sickness absence”. In achieving these targets, the Swedish Social Insurance Agency (SSIA) and their frontline staff have a key role. The state agency is responsible for administrating the sickness insurance and decisions regarding individuals’ right to sickness benefits.

The aim of this paper is to analyze the role of numerical targets (understood as object and mobilizing symbols) in shaping caseworker subjectivity, including their emotions and relationships to clients. The study identifies central governance technologies used in the organizational shaping of the “ideal caseworker”. The paper is based on an ethnographic study with participant observations (meetings with caseworkers, managers and insurance physicians/specialists) and interviews in the head office and five local offices of the SSIA. In total 57 interviews were conducted and 37 meetings observed.

The study shows how numerical targets are loaded with positive emotions within the organization, associated with emotions such as work joy, sense of achievement, pride and belonging – but also frustration and embarrassment in relation to colleagues and other local offices with “better numbers” and results. Furthermore, the analysis shows how teamwork (in so-called self-managed teams between caseworkers) and meetings with different street-level bureaucrat experts (e.g. insurance specialists and insurance physicians) constitute central governance technologies in the shaping of caseworker subjectivity and emotions. Teamwork and the meetings have an influence on caseworkers to achieve mobilization around the target 9.0. Governing by numerical targets illustrates the SSIA’s effort to create a feeling of togetherness at the workplace and influence caseworkers to move in the same direction – as well as maintain the “work strategy” in the sickness insurance and reduce the number of people on sickness benefits.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
National Category
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-157013OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-157013DiVA, id: diva2:1317332
Conference
The 10th International Critical Management Studies (CMS) Conference – July 3-5 2017, Liverpool, UK, stream 37: Emotions, objects and meaning in organizations
Available from: 2019-05-22 Created: 2019-05-22 Last updated: 2019-05-24

Open Access in DiVA

No full text in DiVA

Authority records BETA

Seing, Ida

Search in DiVA

By author/editor
Seing, Ida
By organisation
Education and SociologyFaculty of Arts and Sciences
Sociology

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar

urn-nbn

Altmetric score

urn-nbn
Total: 12 hits
CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • harvard1
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • oxford
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf