Public Health Problem
Unemployment and underemployment are scourges—nothing short of a problem of public health of pandemic proportions. Unemployed people are at greater risk of poorer physical health (Griep et al., 2015) and mental health (Wanberg, 2012), including suicidal behavior (Breuer, 2014; Drydakis, 2014; Madianos, Alexiou, Patelakis, & Economou, 2014; Milner, Morrell, & LaMontagne, 2014; Milner, Page, & LaMontagne, 2013, 2014), and change in personality, such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness (Boyce, Wood, Daly, & Sedikides, 2015). It is alarming that poverty is associated with diminished cognitive development in children (Dickerson & Popli, 2016; Heberle & Carter, 2015; Kalil, Duncan, & Ziol-Guest, 2016).
Unemployment not only diminishes mental health but also, in turn, poorer mental health is a risk factor for unemployment (Butterworth, Leach, Pirkis, & Kelaher, 2012; Olesen, Butterworth, Leach, Kelaher, & Pirkis, 2013), which sets up a vicious cycle that entraps those with mental health issues in poverty. Furthermore, poor quality employment confers similar negative effects on mental health. Tragically, suicide is concomitant to unemployment (Milner, Morrell, et al., 2014; Milner, Page, et al., 2014; Norstrom & Gronqvist, 2015; Reeves, McKee, & Stuckler, 2014) and evident higher rates of suicide within the first five years of unemployment (Milner et al., 2013). With the provision of interventions for unemployment and re-employment within their professional domain, career practitioners must be alert to mental health concerns and suicidality for their clients (Popadiuk, 2013).
Psychology of Working and Decent Work
In the presence of such compelling evidence about the pernicious effects of unemployment and underemployment, scholars in the field have turned their attention to decent work (Blustein, Olle, Connors-Kellgren, & Diamonti, 2016; International Labour Office, 2015). The psychology of working framework (PWF; Blustein, 2006, 2013) and the psychology of working theory (PWT; Duffy, Blustein, Diemer, & Autin, 2016) hold decent work as central to well-being and self-determination of the individual and the contexts in which the individual relates to others (e.g., family community). These scholars’ conviction is rational given that poor quality work wreaks havoc on psychological well-being (Butterworth, Leach, McManus, & Stansfeld, 2013; Butterworth et al., 2011).
According to the PWF/PWT, crucial influences emanating from economic constraints and marginalization can negatively affect a person’s work volition and career adaptability, which, in turn, positively affect a person’s likelihood of securing decent work. This dynamic tension between negative and positive factors is moderated by a person’s proactive personality, critical consciousness, social support, and economic conditions. Thus, in times of reasonable economic conditions which produce demand for labour in an inclusive society, stronger levels of volition and career adaptability should enable a person to seek, secure, and enjoy decent work—thereby, living comfortably, and fulfilling psychological needs of autonomy, relatedness, and competence (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Unfortunately, that ideal state of affairs is not the norm for millions of people on earth.
PWF and ACCELL
The PWF broadens the focus and ethical mandate of career development practice and research. The field’s traditional foci (e.g., career decision-making, vocational interests, developmental stages) remain important; it is just that these factors can now be subsumed under the greater cause of decent work for those who seek it. In this way, the PWF is paradigmatic; it allows for other vocational psychology theories to provide their specialized perspectives on career-related behaviours that contribute to a person securing decent work. Thus, ACCELL uses the PWF as a paradigm for our research and development.
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* This blog article is an extract from a keynote presentation prepared for the Career Development Association of New Zealand: McIlveen, P. (2016). Ask a Precise Question in You Want a Precise Answer About the Effectiveness of Career Development. Keynote paper presented at the Symposium of the Career Development Association of New Zealand, Christchurch, 3 October.