Jobpath And The Reality Of ‘Employment Activation’


From top: Jobpath offices in Cabra , Dublin 7; Eamonn Kelly

Austerity is hard on everyone, even on corporatism, which has also been feeling the pinch and is now reduced to pilfering public monies and pensions normally reserved for the poor and the diligent.

One of corporatism’s ways of inveigling itself into position to siphon off public funds requires a pretense of offering help and social care. Corporatism looks awkward and ungainly in a nurse’s outfit. Like the big bad wolf dressed as granny. But, old whore that it is, corporatism will do anything to keep profits buoyant. There is no stoop too low for corporatism.

There are also sorts of complex arguments circulating about the meaning of employment activation; its effectiveness or otherwise, and it all comes served with its own language and terms, and concepts within concepts, and reports about reports and talks about talks.

But behind the fog of verbiage is a very simple truth. Corporatism, always hungry for growth and expansion, is attempting to blame the poor for causing the limits to corporatism’s expansion.

Because by blaming the poor, the poor can then be managed by corporatism, and “fixed”. That process will then create opportunities for further investment, growth and expansion for corporatism.

One of the advantages of living next door to Britain, speaking the same language and being able to look in the TV window to see what they’re at, is the foresight that is afforded to us here in Ireland for what might be coming at us down the line.

Our governments tend to be unadventurous and lazy, taking ideas off the British rack and implementing them here with some kind of local twist.

This is how we got JobPath, which is based on Britain’s Workfare, which itself is based on an American model designed by corporate entities.

In the online magazine, The Conversation, it was reported in 2015 that job opportunities in Britain were opening up for psychologists to find a cure for unemployment by curing the unemployed of whatever psychological defects were supposedly causing them to be unemployed.

Psychologists were finding work in Job Centres. Gambling bankers, white-collar criminals, technological advances and exhausted markets aren’t considered credible causes for unemployment. No. The cause of unemployment is the unemployed. If there were no unemployed, there would be no unemployment. Simple.

The report in the Conversation, goes on to show that in Britain for many poor people, unemployed people can now be sanctioned and lose benefits for failing to be upbeat and optimistic.

The official term is “absence of positive affect”. It means you are not trying to be employable, because apparently employers don’t hire glum chums.

So, the Tory solution to unemployment is to harasses, bully and threaten the unemployed into being happy. The more pessimistic you are, the more they work you over. They’ll make you happy if it kills you.

This must rank as some kind of psychological torture. Being officially told you are worthless for not being happy. That you are the architect of your own worthless condition by not even trying hard enough to smile.

The article goes on to discuss the growth of systems, services and jobs around the “problem” of unemployed people, speaking to Dr David Webster, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, who is leading a campaign against the inequities and cruelties of the Workfare system in Britain. Dr Webster regards the sanctions system as a “secret penal system.”

He says that the way the system works, once it has identified the unemployed as the problem causing unemployment (a bit like saying that the dead are the cause of death), the unemployed person then becomes the focus of a new “industry”, an industry that creates wealth for everyone, except the unemployed themselves who must, in order for the industry to function, remain poor and in need of “help”.

This is like a kind of built-in obsolescence. Corporatism was always good at that kind of built-in flaw to keep sales steady. Anyone can see that it is in no one’s interest to ever fix such a golden goose as a broken unemployed person.

What better way to drag out the fix than to throw a team of psychologists into the mix? They can debate forever as to whether or not the subject is fixed, and never arrive at a conclusion, as is the nature of their profession, all the time drawing down public funds in the form of salaries and other related expenses, while also creating further potential for expansion and growth in mental health assistance and “happy” drugs and questionable cures delivered by questionable experts.

Stubborn cases can be criminalised and fed as raw material into private prison systems. All this expansion into new areas of human management will require more staff, creating valuable new “jobs”, and more growth and more expansion. The sky’s the limit when it comes to managing and fixing the poor.

Notice how the real reasons for unemployment, the complicated interwoven problems of technological advance, gush-up capitalism, the environmental system’s limitations to perpetual growth, economic boom and bust, and all the other complexities that go towards creating unemployment are conveniently left off the table, replaced by such a simplistic assessment as the one put forward by our latest Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, that unemployment is caused by people who don’t get up early in the morning.

How brilliantly profound. We just elected a leader who believes unemployment is caused by late sleeping. Oh wait, we didn’t elect him, that’s right. But he’s there anyway, so I guess we’re stuck with him. That’s democracy, huh?

Corporatism was born out of small white lies, with the occasional huge black one thrown in to keep the ball rolling. It was born and enriched through advertising, through slipping and sliding and smiling and selling.

Corporatism is now selling the idea to the working public that the poor are the cause of high taxes, and they are selling to the poor the idea that they are broken and need to be fixed by… who else but good old uncle corporatism, who will teach them all to smile again, and will, presumably, given enough time and public monies, teach the whole world to sing in perfect harmony.

This is the logic of corporatism laid bare in austerity, that now sees corporatism using people as commodities to generate profits for investors. Corporatism doesn’t care where the profit comes from. It just wants the profit. It needs the profit.

If corporatism has to pretend to “help” social casualties to do that, well, it’ll put up some kind of pretense at helping, with some small token investment. Maybe throw a few re-conditioned computers into an office someplace and slap a “Social Help Resource” sign over the door.

Hire a few clerks to man the desks, tell them they’re a team, give them a stipend and tell them to smile as big as they can. Job done. Now gimme the money!

This is what employment activation is. It is corporatism selling the idea that it’s okay now to consume the poor.

Eamonn Kelly is a freelance writer.


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72 thoughts on “Jobpath And The Reality Of ‘Employment Activation’

  1. Fact Checker

    Employment in the UK has recently risen to an all-time high.

    Does this support his argument about the negative effects of privatising job activation services? Or refute it?

    1. :-Joe

      Is zero hour contracts and the new techy nixer part time economy factored into those stats?

      Every year I hear about employment figures being manipulated by someone in politics over here or over there in britain, other parts of europe or america


  2. Sheik Yahbouti

    Eamonn, I thank you for your clear sighted, cogently written article. A few who post on this and other fora, trying to cover the derriere’s of their political masters should take the time to ACTUALLY READ what you have written. You are not the first person to notice the logical fallacies in the corporate argument, and you won’t be the last. The question is, when will people actually take notice? I say this as someone who has been in continuous employment for fifty years and has never once been unlucky enough to have to deal with the benefit system in this country.

  3. Otis Blue

    As far as I recall ‘activation’ measures such as Jobpath were a condition set out by the Troika as part of Ireland’s bailout.

    Revenues due to the two organisations contracted to deliver Jobpath will be €65m in 2017.

    According to the DSP 80% of participants had a high level of satisfaction with the scheme.

    1. Pat

      That DSP satisfaction report is pure lies. I was a year on Job Path and gave them a foul review as did every single person I know who has been on Job Path.

  4. :-Joe

    Great article… always important to highlight this issue.

    My only small criticism would be the implied idea that somehow this is something new. It’s not at all new.

    The universally accepted norm of western civilization and the modus opperadae of so-called “right-wing” establishment politics and corporatists who believe in neo-liberal economic policies is to encourage the so-called “middle class” to despise and blame the ” workling-class” but in particular the poor for all the problems in the economy.

    It is done in order to keep the aspiring average majority of people distracted and working hard in driving the economy forward under the illusion that if they do well they will one day become part of the elite. It’s quite a brilliant, albeit evil mechanism and unfortunately it works and keeps on working.

    If you want to watch a great film documentary about corporatism and what a corporation really means in terms of it’s real life consequences :

    If you want to watch a really great and entertaining(and funny) feature film about this issue that recently won the Palme D’Or at Cannes :


    1. E Kelly

      What! Oh, I get it. I criticized Leo Varadkar’s views on unemployment, and Leo Varadkar is gay and so therefore…. And the anti EU sentiment has me absolutely stumped.

    2. :-Joe

      I was wondering what you were on about and then realised I forgot varadker was gay…
      I don’t think I ever met a person who I knew was gay that I didn’t like or at least trust before… strange.

      Thanks for reminding me.


  5. Rob_G

    How long do you have do you have to be unemployed before engaging with Jobpath – is it a year?

    If you have been consistently applying for jobs for a year and still haven’t secured one, it’s very possible that something is going wrong in your approach, and a little outside assistance might be required.

      1. Rob_G


        But tbh, if the programme had a positive impact in getting people who have been long-term unemployed back in the workforce, I wouldn’t be too concerned if was privately-run, state-run or some hybrid of the two.

        Your article seems to suggest that there is something inherently bad about a private company performing this service (though I noticed that in you long-ish article, you provided no figures to support this contention); I don’t think this is necessarily the case.

    1. Fact Checker

      Yes. From the presentation: “50% of the 1,266 people referred were more than 3 years unemployed, 22% between 2 and 3 years unemployed and 28% between 1 and 2 years unemployed.”

      Ireland has traditionally had:
      -high share of long-term unemployment
      -weak formal engagement with the long-term unemployed
      Maybe these two things are connected, maybe they are not. But they have been true when the economy has been white hot and also when it has been in a slump.

      It should not be a sin to experiment with policy. JobBridge was tried for a few years and a decision was taken to wind it down. These things are not eternal.

      I for one would be interested in seeing if the JobPath approach makes a difference and DSP appear open to assessing whether this is the case. They are actually much more open to examination of the effects of their policies than pretty much every other government department.

      I don’t know how you can make or assess any policy if you ONLY look at it through the lens of sociological theory. The insights are useful, but they can only take you so far.

      1. Joe Small

        JobBridge was actually a successful programme which was ambushed by populists. Its evaluation showed that.

    2. jusayinlike

      Careful Eamon, you have attracted the attention of the right wing flying monkeys..

  6. E Kelly

    I think JobPath is different, and may be designed to be permanent. It’s goal appears to be the privatization of welfare services. The report you drew your figures from also has questions that were presented to JobPath participants, one of which asked was the service better than similar services provided by INTREO. This appears to suggest that JobPath is being positioned to be the long term replacement of services currently provided by the public service, with similar services provided by private operators, leading, eventually, to lay offs and redundancies in the public service. You say it should not be a sin to try out policy ideas, but neither should it be a sin to question them. And my questioning of this particular idea, as I pointed out in the article, is not a guess in the dark, it is based on the results of the same idea having been tried and tested in Britain with relatively dire social consequences for many people. The reason why I felt compelled to write about this was because it appears to have escaped people’s notice that the two last ministers for social protection spent their time transferring people dependent on social protection to private interests that provided the same service in Britain, services described in Britain as being disreputable and unethical. Our ministers for social protection, one of whom is now Taoiseach, abdicated on their terms of office, to provide social protection, in order to further privatization. This is what makes JobPath different and why it needs to be questioned.

    1. Fact Checker

      It would not mean the privatisation of WELFARE services, it would be the privatisation of ACTIVATION services.

      Yes this might mean less employment of civil servants working on activation policies.

      But what is wrong with this if it provides a demonstrably better service? Please note I use the word ‘IF’, because the jury is still out.

    2. Dylan

      Yes, it is supposed to replace the Intreo service of the social welfare, there is one crucial difference though, when you are reffered to it, it is compulsory, whether it suits or not, and it cannot refer you to any other service or scheme for the duration of the referral, a minimum of 1 year. This is part of the contract with Seetec etc, that there would be no way out for those referred so they could collect their minimum contract money. The only way to escape is to get a job, which Seetec claim they got you and recieve a large bonus. As Eamon points out, the money is carefully intercepted by the company and does not reach the unemployed person. They are worth anywhere up to 18000 ish (going by English contracts) to the contractor, and a further 10000 to an “employer” who is subsidised through “Jobsplus”. Even if his shoes are falling off his feet, there is nothing tangible for the unemployed person, but he is worth 30, 000 to corporates. It is in fact a form of indentured servitude.

      1. Rob_G

        “The only way to escape is to get a job” – sounds good to me.

        “As Eamon points out, the money is carefully intercepted by the company and does not reach the unemployed person.” – why would this money go to someone in addition to the benefits that the state is already paying them?

        “Even if his shoes are falling off his feet, there is nothing tangible for the unemployed person” – if they manage to get a job out of it, I think that would count as a pretty tangible benefit

        “It is in fact a form of indentured servitude.” – working for wage is actually the opposite of indentured servitude

        1. Fact Checker

          In stark contrast to the old situation where engagement with Intreo was compulsory…….

  7. E Kelly

    Does it provide a demonstrably better service? I think the jury is out on that too. But from what I know, and from what I have read of the service in Britain, it’s main impetus is concerned with harassing jobseekers in a parole-officer/parolee type of relationship. There is a very real fear abroad among people who have been subjected to this “service”, a service which has more in common with incarceration than with any retraining service I’ve ever heard of. What is interesting and destructive about it, is that the relationship it establishes with the client is actually destructive of personal initiative. It is destructive of grassroots entrepreneurial spirit. Besides, this talk of “activation” is precisely the red herring discussion I mentioned in the article. The point is, the current climate is impervious to job creation on a mass scale. JobPath and Workfare actually allow governments to pass the buck on this insoluble problem onto the people who are dependent on social protection, threatening them with immediate and unforgiving immiseration for failure to do the one thing that the government has failed to do, namely, create jobs. The only jobs they are creating, as I pointed out in the article, are these people-management jobs, with the unemployed as commodities. It’s a cheat and a cop out on the part of the government. They are parking the problem of employment creation – their own failure – on the most vulnerable sector, a sector they have judged to be without power or influence. So in that respect it is also a cowardly deception. And Leo Varadkar standing grinning with his Welfare Cheats sign is only the ironic cherry on the whole stinking cake. Because the whole thing is a cheat from top to bottom.

    1. :-Joe

      We recently bailed out the bondholders and protected the capital investments of banks to the tune of more money than ninety percent of most humans that have have ever existed or will exist, had or will ever know.

      If you follow basic fair and balanced economic theory i.e. post-keynes for example, that we used to believe was flawed but fundamentally sound then the nurses, teachers, gardai, emergency services along with public infastructure projects and housing development would have been capitalised thus creating plenty of opportunites for emplayment and we would all be better off now and be in a more progressive state heading into the future.

      Instead we swapped common sense and decency for the benefit of corporatism through neo-liberal economic policies and…. “tell the folks what they won”

      AUSTERITY a.k.a quantative easing and fiscal space nonsense etc etc…. otherwise known as the single biggest transfer of public wealth into private ownerhip. A scandalous example of treachery and inequality.

      If you keep voting against your own self interest for powerless and clueless party politicians who answer to unelected officials in Brussels that are manipupalted by global financial institutions and corporations you will get exactly the same results every time..

      Vote for local independents and if you think there has to be a party just wait until something else that passes for political decency eventually comes along.


    2. Fact Checker

      “The point is, the current climate is impervious to job creation on a mass scale. JobPath and Workfare actually allow governments to pass the buck on this insoluble problem onto the people who are dependent on social protection, threatening them with immediate and unforgiving immiseration for failure to do the one thing that the government has failed to do, namely, create jobs.”

      But employment is growing at about 3% a year at the moment in Ireland. The growth can be found pretty much in all sectors, for men and women, in every region.

      Have I missed something?

      1. :-Joe

        I don’t think you’re off track in what you’re saying but what exactly is your question?

        The economy is doing better so there is some growth in employment. Sure.

        So, is replicating the jobpath system and privatising a part of the process in dealing with the welfare system a good idea?..

        It could be possible to make it work but I would say no, not in my opninion . Jobpath is a tory system from britain that’s already caused a lot of problems by not focusing properly on the real social problems surrounding welfare, regardless of the economics or the profit motives.

        Apparently it’s either not designed or implemented well enough to care about the actual needs of the public it’s supposed to be helping, sorry I meant to say the consumers/clients/victims etc.

        I think you already suggested that yourself, no… maybe I’m missing something?


  8. Jocky

    Great. Some people simply don’t want to work and they will sabotage any efforts to help them get a job. At the every least this makes their lives much more uncomfortable which is a good thing.


    The three best words in the English language are ‘Boom’ and ‘Boom’.

    You used to look look ridiculous.
    You will again.


      look twice.

      Three is two many.

      It was a two-po, a typo and a trippy trippy trampoline tryptich that…

      I triumplitate.

  10. Shadow Hound

    When did Varadkar say unemployment is down to sleeping late?

    That assertion is convenient ignorance of the common truth.

    He instead said that he would work hard at representing the workers participating in our economy.

    He would promote policies that, for once, give a bit of respect back to the poor soldiers getting up at 5am to drive for hours into jobs that, for the majority, are probably soul destroying.

    You know, the concept that those who contribute most to society should get priority from government.
    Those who pay the most taxes, who pay the full cost for their own housing and families, those who sacrifice their time to contribute rather than to take- the ‘squeezed middle’ are due some reward.

    And that maybe those who laze and sponge for years, and the anti-socials who drag the public realm into the gutter, should be given a series of rude awakenings to alien concepts such as hard work, real punishments, and self sufficiency.

    The pervasive liberal and pc discourse of the last decades has blinded and muted so many to these obvious common truths.

    1. mildred st. meadowlark

      I get up at 6am 6 mornings a week these days and work long hours. I work hard, and love my job – why else would I do it? – but I don’t forget that when I lost my job and found myself in a situation where I was unable to work for the best part of three years, that the money from the government saved me, that the social protection (however small it was, at times) I contribute to with my taxes, was there when I needed it. That’s it’s purpose.

      I don’t appreciate being made like a scrounger for claiming what I have paid for with my taxes. And that’s what the situation is for many people in this country, unfortunately.

    2. :-Joe

      It’s not just the literal statements it’s the rheteric, the presentation, the timing the whole sordid pre-packaged statements that have been trotted out before using various ways of communicating through language.

      I agree that the so-called “middle class” deserve to get something back but before the homeless, the impovrished and neglected?,, No, sorry pal. No offence but you’re on your own there.

      The problems of unemplayment, austerity and inequality do not lay at the feet of the vunerable or true liberalism or with some idea about political correctness gone mad…

      It all lies with policies and actions taken by politicians who abuse the public trust and do not act on behalf of the common good. Everbody can be different and some more wealthy than others if we all get a fair shake in the game.

      It’s up to us to hold the elected representatives accountable to all our best interests.


      1. :-Joe

        Apparently speed typing without proof-reading or editing after my barin has gone to bed… does not a decent reply make.


        1. jusayinlike

          Varadkar pfffft..

          Remember his bravado about standing up for the indo printers pension scheme which the company just dissolved..

          Remember all his bravado about hospital beds when he was in health..

          Not fulfilling anything is his mantra, he’ll kick the can around like all the other stooges in the r/w cult..

      2. Sir regered Sir Lazer

        I haven’t got time to check.
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        How much is a ticket?

  11. Shayna

    “Glum Chums?” – Australia offers one of the highest unemployment benefit anywhere in the world. They surf, if they’re near an ocean, they’re near a pub, they drink. The Native Aussies, however haven’t got it so good, engrossed in poverty and alcoholism, are neglected by the welfare system.
    Jobpath, I know about – my cousin who was formerly a recruitment consultant in Manchester now has a job in The North finding employment for the long-term unemployed. She freely admits to knowing some of the people interviews are work-shy shirkers, but, others are genuinely not fit for work. It’s not a case of turning that frown up-side down. And Jobpath is replicating this? My cousin is on a yearly contract herself, maybe when the whole thing collapses in the North, Jobpath could offer her a job?


    Wait a moment… this is literally no literally allitrivial or inevitable Terry Groves.
    I’ve been duped.

    This site is getting better or these drugs are badder than the best. Feels like both.

    Send me your knickers, that you dream in.

    Cuntery and Westside*

    *not that Westside.


    What time is the first bus home from Enniskerry?
    (If the weather forecast is good, am I near the beach? I can smell fish. I might stay. Make a proper weekend out of it.
    My leather jacket got robbed earlier on but I found a better one in a similar cloakroom

  14. Sir Major Sir Lazer

    I hope I don’t get get sued for calling meself that, but Diplo is a donkey.
    Anything can always happen once if you don’t count the impossible.

    The kool kidz know what I kmean.

  15. Sir Major Sir Lazer

    As my brothe or rother from another mother F-Cooker never said.
    If you can’t be good be good at being bad..

    Excellence is a talent talent is a virtue.
    This probably the wrong site.

  16. Sir regered Sir Lazer

    As my brother or rother from another mother F-N Cooker never said.
    If you can’t be good be good at being bad..

    Excellence is a talent talent is a virtue.
    This could probably be the wrong site.

  17. Sir registred wrongly @Lazerbeams

    actually, this is his wife.
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    he thinks it’s funy.
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    I know what he’s like and what he likes..

    I’m going to sell this phone later this morning. I’m not really his wife.

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    I finished work at 5am.
    it’s almost 6am…
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    When I can stand up.

    It’s much harde…
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    I’ll hate myself, but I’ll do it.

    I don’t like censorships or their captains.
    I can fight but we shouldn’t.

    it could escalate.
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    from the J to the ‘oh’ to the K to the E.


  18. Sir registred wrongly @Lazerbeams

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    I’m smoking as I type.

    Censorship is like taking a self-indulgent soak in a bubble bath and not expecting a toaster.

    if I was you I’d totally ignore me.
    I wasn’t talking to you.

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