Journal article

The Category Game and its impact on Street-Level Bureaucrats and Jobseekers: An Australian Case Study

Siobhan O’Sullivan, M McGann, M Considine

Social Policy and Society | Cambridge University Press (CUP) | Published : 2019


A key question concerning the marketisation of employment services is the interaction between performance management systems and frontline client-selection practices. While the internal sorting of clients for employability by agencies has received much attention, less is known about how performance management shapes official categorisation practices at the point of programme referral. Drawing on case studies of four Australian agencies, this study examines the ways in which frontline staff contest how jobseekers are officially classified by the benefit administration agency. With this assessment pivotal in determining payment levels and activity requirements, we find that reassessing jobseek..

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University of Melbourne Researchers


Awarded by Australian Research Council

Awarded by Jobs Australia

Awarded by National Employment Services Association

Awarded by Westgate Community Initiatives Group

Funding Acknowledgements

The authors thank the Australian Research Council and our industry partners (Jobs Australia, the National Employment Services Association, and Westgate Community Initiatives Group), who funded the research upon which this article is based (LP150100277). The authors also thank the four employment agencies who participated in this research, and especially the frontline staff who repeatedly took time out of their busy days to be interviewed. Finally, the authors thank the referees for their thoughtful and constructive feedback on earlier versions of the article.