Forskere på Fafo: Maria Gussgard Volckmar-Eeg
Achieving equity in welfare provision depends on accurate understandings of the work of street-level bureaucrats. We explore the role of emotions when caseworkers prioritise cases. While creaming of clients whom street-level bureaucrats consider ‘likely to succeed’ is acknowledged as a way of rationing scarce resources, research tends to reject emotional involvement as bias, or neglect emotions in creaming-practices. This may produce inaccurate portrayals of how street-level bureaucrats prioritise cases. We challenge existing perspectives by bridging the literature on creaming and the sociology of emotions. We did ethnography and interviews with Norwegian caseworkers tasked with integrating migrant clients into the labour market. These caseworkers cream cases according to institutional/discursive understandings of ‘star candidates’ and rely on their emotions as embodied knowledge. We conceptualise such processes as emotional creaming, which unpacks a central, yet overlooked part of how street-level bureaucrats prioritise cases. This modifies the depiction of emotions as mainly personal bias.