Work Integration Social Enterprises (WISE) offer supported work environments for people experiencing disadvantage, including people with disability. This paper reflects on a research project that is mapping the ways in which social enterprises in regional Australian cities produce wellbeing for their employees. Through supported employment programs, these organisations are transforming individual lives, helping to build a sense of self-worth and purpose, and increase individuals’ social skills and capacities. Many of the perceived benefits are associated with a belief in the innate good of paid work. Based upon interviews with employees in the social enterprises, it is apparent that the hopes attached to providing ‘meaningful work’ are considerable. At the same time social enterprises are taking on social responsibilities that were once provided by the state, while also selling their services as employers of disabled and disadvantaged members of society and maintaining commercial viability of the enterprise. Using feminist political economy alongside discussion of the distributive economy, this paper explores how contemporary policy conditions, productivist biases and normative discourses about the value of wage work inflect the forms of wellbeing that can be experienced by WISE workers.
Mckinnon, K., Kennedy, M., Barraket, J., & Decotta, T. (2020). Is being in work good for wellbeing? Work Integration Social Enterprises in regional Australia. Australian Geographer, 51(3), 361-375. https://doi.org/10.1080/00049182.2020.1781322