Paw Havgaard Hansen defends his PhD thesis at the Department of Political Science

PHD defence


Paw Havgaard Hansen


"Frontline work and beneficiary contact. Essays on interpersonal dynamics during welfare encounters".

The thesis

The thesis will be published as an e-book which can be bought at Academic Books. Furthermore, the thesis can also be loaned from the Royal Danish Library.

Time and venue

Thursday 30 March 2023 from 14:00-17:00 at Centre for Health and Society, Øster Farimagsgade 5, DK-1353 Copenhagen K., room 1.1.02. Kindly note that the defence will start precisely at 14:00.

Assessment committee

  • Associate Professor, Carolin Hjort Rapp, Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen (Chair)
  • Senior Lecturer Alice Moseley, Department of Social and Political Science, University of Exeter
  • Professor Martin Bækgaard, Department of Political Science, Aarhus University


The dissertation examines some of the interpersonal dynamics taking place between frontline workers and their clients during welfare encounters. Specifically, the dissertation comprises four research articles divided into two thematic tracks.

The first track focuses on the types of behaviors that are not formally part of frontline workers’ jobs. For example, in one study the dissertation identifies which client characteristics that may cause Danish unemployment caseworkers to sometimes ‘turn a blind eye’: willingly abstaining from imposing sanctions mandated by law. In another study, the dissertation deals with the many forms of extra welfare occasionally provided by frontline workers. Focusing on Danish high school teachers, the dissertation shows that teachers are more willing to work extra hours or accept bother when this benefits certain students but not others. Taken together, the first track sheds light on the types of behaviors during welfare delivery that often falls under the radar.

In the second track, the dissertation turns its attention to frontline workers’ motivation and how this is connected to contact with clients. For example, the dissertation takes advantage of the sudden introduction of remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to investigate how the loss of direct client contact affected caseworkers and teachers’ sense of fulfillment and perceived performance. In the fourth and final article, the dissertation investigates if frontline workers may benefit from recalling past positive experiences with clients. In sum, the second track brings about practical knowledge on how to design frontline worker jobs in a way that sustains and fosters motivation and commitment.