September 29, 2013

Work Fair?

Everyone should be made to work for their benefits except mothers with young children, according to a new polling conducted for Policy Exchange.

The polling found that the public supports strict conditions for the long-term unemployed. The YouGov poll of 1,930 people carried out in September shows strong support for the introduction of workfare schemes – forcing jobseekers to carry out work experience or community work in order to receive their benefits.

When given a list of specific groups of individuals who should be exempt from workfare, the public felt that only mothers with young children should be excluded. People with physical and mental disabilities who could work should work as should dads with young children, according to the public.

Workfare schemes are also far more popular than taxes being used to guarantee jobs for the long-term unemployed. By a margin over three to one (56% compared to 17%) people would rather the government make people work for their benefits rather than introduce a scheme that guaranteed long-term benefit claimants a job at the National Minimum Wage using taxpayers’ money.

The findings show:

  • By a margin of nearly five to one (56% compared to 12%) people supporting the introduction of workfare for the long-term unemployed compared to the status quo.
  • Two thirds of people (67%) felt mothers with children under the age of 4 should be excluded from doing community work in return for their benefits. Interestingly, only 38% felt fathers with children under four should be excluded from workfare.
  • Only 1 in 4 (25%) thought people with mental disabilities who are capable of working should be excluded from workfare.
  • Only 1 in 5 (22%) thought people with physical disabilities who are capable of working should be excluded from workfare.

In response to the findings, the report warns against rolling out workfare for large numbers of benefit claimants as the costs could rise into the billions of pounds each year. This would be a poor use of taxpayer money and forcing people to work when they are not physically or mentally ready could also have a detrimental effect.

However, the report said that the government should pilot workfare schemes for specific groups of jobseekers including:

  • Some individuals who leave the Work Programme without finding work after at least two years of support due to lack of trying or lack of experience.
  • Under 25s with little or no work experience and older jobseekers who have been out of work for at least six months and who do not have significant experience of work.
  • Jobseekers who are not meeting their requirements to look for work.


Ed Holmes

Senior Research Fellow for Economics & Social Policy, 2009-2013

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