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A capabilities approach to freedom of employment: Hierarchical capabilities

When people in New Zealand are unhappy with their current employment, they are often advised to find a new job. Implicit here is the assumption that a new job will be better, but it is not entirely clear that this is always the case. In this thesis I aim to navigate the complexities of this suggestion in order to ascertain whether or not the task of finding new employment, that is more meaningful to the individual, is as simple as it sounds. To do this I have developed a hierarchical chart, in combination with the capabilities approach from Amartya Sen. The capabilities approach allows us to focus on the options that are available to the individual, rather than ensuring that everyone is given access to everything, including things that they do not need. By looking at freedom of employment as a capability, we may identify meaningful options for individuals even if some options are closed off to them. However, if there are not enough available options then individuals may lack access to meaningful freedom of employment. By ordering the capabilities that are required for individuals to enjoy meaningful freedom of employment into a hierarchy, I am able to structure them such that any necessary capabilities can be investigated based on how many available options individuals have to achieve them. I will investigate three main groups of capabilities that are required by individuals in their pursuit of meaningful freedom of employment; find meaningful employment, achieve education and training, and receive adequate government intervention, to see if there are adequate options available for individuals to have access to meaningful freedom of employment. Employment plays a large role in the ability of individuals to live a life that is meaningful to themselves. For this reason, it is important that individuals have access to freedom of employment in a meaningful way. The capabilities of individuals may be obstructed through power discrepancies between the government, employers and employees, which the capabilities approach is able to highlight. In later chapters I will discuss who ought to keep their finger on the scale and offer some suggestions in the conclusion as to how this may be achieved. Using this approach, I hope to provide some additional insight into the complexities of meaningful employment, which may be used to develop new policies to ensure access to the capabilities that are required for meaningful freedom of employment for everyone who resides in New Zealand.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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