Welfare Professions: Between Provinces and Working Class – University of Copenhagen

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Department of Media, Cognition and Communication > Research > MCC projects and externally funded projects > Welfare Professions

Welfare Professions: Between Provinces and Working Class

The recruitment for what can be termed welfare professions - nurses, schoolteachers, librarians, etc - has changed. Thus, the ethnic, gender and class composition of the current student body differs from the students bodies of the eighties and nineties. In particular, the number of students originating in the working class increases. These changes occur while other changes take place in the governing and ordering of welfare work. How do these concomitant processes affect the professions, the professionals, and the field of welfare work?

At the same time, changes are occurring in the control and administration of the welfare work, petering down as effects of changes in the welfare state. How does this affect the professional work?

Specifically this project uses group interviews and register data to address the following broad relations:

- How does social differences in recruitment relate to changes in the welfare professions?

- What geografical and historical changes can be found in the recruitment to the professions?

- How does changes in the welfare state affect the welfare professions?

These questions are important and pressing, since their study will shed light on the ways the educatíonal system, professions and social classes interact and change, or reproduce, each other.

Production of new knowledge

This projects produces knowledge about the effect of social differences in professional culture; that is, the inner ethos and practice of professional work - professionalism; and the boundaries and relations to other professions of the field of welfare work - professionalization. The project provides new knowledge about how changes in the welfare state affect the professional welfare work, and about geographical variation in student recruitment and professional culture. Finally, the project also develops new knowledge by combining professional sociology, micro-class analysis and the field-theories of Bourdieu. Where sociology of professions lack sensitivity for social inequalities, the micro-class analysis provide a tool for understanding these; yet both sociology of professions lack concepts for understanding how a socially coherent and closed group may struggle both internally and - with other groups externally(albeit about very different sets of issues). The Bourdieuan concepts of nomos, doxa and field allow for a nuanced and rich analysis of such struggles.

Research questions of the project

- What changes has taken place in the recruitment for professional training with respect to class, gender and ethnicity?

- How do different groups of students enact different kinds professional cultures (professionalism and professionalization)?

- How are welfare professions differentiated internally, by different students, enacting different professional cultures in response to changes in the welfare state?

- What connections exist between changes in class recruitment and changes in professional culture?

These research questions present a set of these about the relations between changing recruitment, professional culture, and the state:

Since 1996 the number of applicants to welfare professional training has fluctuated wildly, as has the educational level of the students admitted to training. Further, these fluctuations differs very much between geographical regions.

Differences in students’ social origins manifest in different educational strategies, different cultures of learning, and different forms of participation The relationship between the welfare state, and the welfare professions enacting said state changes continuously, and reflects the power relations changing within the field of power.

While this project to some extent examines whether these theses describe the relations between state, professions and recruitment accurately, the project furthermore attempts to expand this object description qualitatively. The experience and practical understanding of the professionals expands the theses and attempts to transcend both the professionals practical understanding, and the theoretical objectivation. Thus the objective changes in social class and geographical recruitment is examined by exploring how specific groups of students relate to the state and practice their professions differently.

The project Welfare Professions: Between Provinces and Working Class is funded by Det Frie Forskningsråd - Danish Council for Independent Research, under the Ministry of Higher Education and Science and is led by Jan Thorhauge Frederiksen.