Waiting and temporal control: the temporal experience of long-term unemployment

Louise Overby Nielsen, Sophie Danneris Luthman, Merete Monrad

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
331 Downloads (Pure)


This article analyses how long-term unemployed persons experience time during their unemployment trajectories. This article uses a combination of interviewing and participant drawings to study the experience of time passing during the unemployment trajectory. We focus on the experience of wait time and find that the wait experience varies with control: some clients experience temporal agency and others a loss of control over time. When the wait time is characterised by uncertainty and a loss of control over time, it reinforces an experience of stagnation in the unemployment trajectory and a feeling of being a temporal outsider, living a life on hold, in comparison to societal norms of a working life. For these clients, wait time adds to the burden of unemployment. For clients experiencing temporal agency, wait time is experienced as meaningful, even useful. These clients experience control over the wait time or that the wait time has a fortunate timing in relation to other things happening in the clients’ lives. Based on the analysis, temporal control is decisive for the long-term unemployed, and therefore, a focus on time is crucial both in research on social and employment services for vulnerable clients and in the practice field.

Original languageEnglish
JournalTime & Society
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)176-197
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Time experience
  • active labour market policy
  • long-term unemployed
  • social and employment service
  • temporal agency
  • temporality
  • time
  • unemployment trajectory
  • wait time


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