This is how one married woman in her 40s in Bolton described the experience of losing work in an interview with Jeremy Seabrook in 1981. She was made redundant in 1978 from her non-manual job as an accounts clerk and later found manual work in a textile factory. Her evocative narrative oozes with what work signified to her — both in extrinsic (the money) and intrinsic terms (job satisfaction and independence). One gets an impression of just how central fulfilling work was to this woman’s life and how diminished that life was without it. Her testimony lends support to the idea that by this time the meaning of employment differed little according to gender. Expressions such as ‘useless’, ‘burden’, ‘worthless’ and ‘waste’ combined with the deployment of the ‘scrap-heap’ metaphor — commonly recurring in unemployed workers’ narratives — indicate a profound sense of loss of self-esteem, autonomy and purpose.
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