Getting out of the seclusion trap? Work as meaningful occupation for subjective well-being of asylum seekers in South Tyrol, Italy
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SubjectWork; Social and spatial isolation; Subjective well-being; Social and cultural integration; Meaningful occupation; Asylum seekers; Structural environment
This study explicitly links social aspects of the subjective well-being of asylum seekers and the lack of valued and meaningful occupation during the asylum application process. In bringing subjective personal experiences together with the structural level, the paper addresses the opportunities asylum seekers must have in order to develop their occupational potential. Snowball sampling of 25 asylum seekers in South Tyrol, Italy was completed between April 2016 and March 2017. Data were collected via narrative interviews, informal discussions and semi-structured interviews. Data analysis was based on the grounded theory coding processes described by Strauss and Corbin and involved three levels of analysis: open coding, axial coding and selective coding. As the results show, in the everyday context of asylum seekers, work is not merely a rational and economic activity but a human occupation. It improves the subjective well-being of asylum seekers by contributing peace of mind, a broader sphere of action and the development of identity, thus overcoming their socially and spatially isolated position in society. Having nothing to do forces people to reflect not only on their past but also on their present, leading to what is described as a state of personal uselessness that diminishes physical and psychological well-being.
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