Departmental Bulletin Paper Non-regular workers recovering from negative identities : interviews in a volunteer group

吉武, 理大

Previous studies on non-regular workers have reported that the workers may suffer from negative identities. However, compared with the number of studies on structural causes, relatively fewer studies have examined negative identities among non-regular workers. Hence, raising the practical question of how such workers can recover from negative identities is an important research task. This study investigates the participation in social welfare volunteer activities as a potential method for facilitating such recovery, that is, participation in volunteer activities can afford opportunities for interactions with people. Furthermore, in contrast to peer groups, volunteer groups are not based on shared stigmatization.The author conducted semi-structured interviews with seven individuals in a volunteer group several times between July and December 2014. All participants were unmarried, and most of them lived with their parents. This living arrangement might have enabled them to become involved in volunteer activities while working part time. The interviews revealed that the participants felt that others viewed them negatively in society. They also developed negative identities as consequences of their work and careers, mental problems, and/or lack of communication and relationships with others. However, participation in volunteer activities enabled them to ease certain aspects of their negative identities; in particular, such participation gave them a space where they could forge relationships with people and help others.One unique aspect of volunteer groups is that they do not exclude anyone and accept people who want to help or interact with others. However, volunteering has certain limitations, and participation alone is not a perfect solution. Despite the positive effects, there are aspects of volunteering that warrant critical examination. First, relationships formed through volunteering may not last long. Second, satisfaction with volunteer activities may encourage non-regular workers to remain nonregular workers. Finally, participation in volunteer activities requires being active enough to be involved in the first place. This study had certain limitations. In particular, the number of participants was small; hence, both qualitative and quantitative research are necessary to support the findings.

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