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The Myth of Workfare

You hear this a lot these days: “isn’t it better that so and so is in work, even if it’s not their dream job? Isn’t it better they are working than sitting on their arse collecting dole?”

I find this quite insulting. It’s also hyperbole as of course it presumes the alternative to honest labour is idleness and sloth, ostensibly in front of the television (which ironically makes money from this). I don’t see the DWP chastising Jeremy Kyle himself, or the channels that profit from the ad revenue gained from daytime television.

It’s an ignorant assumption based on outdated religious values. The presumption is that work per se is homogenous and wholesome (and that non-work spreads idleness). Of course work is far from homogenous. There are many kinds of work at many levels and not all of it is necessary or even healthy. We don’t consider what is beneficial; we just assume that any work is, even if it’s unpaid or even if it’s in the most low rent retail venues possible.

The idea seems to stem from the Garden of Eden; exiled for the crime of innocent curiosity Adam and Eve were set to toil in the dust all the days of their lives. It’s a nonsense – and it implies a punishment. Yet we still cling to this value: work corrects a failing moral character. Certainly that’s how Duncan Smith views it; unfortunately he’s living proof of the complete opposite.

We hold to this religious legacy as if it were timeless wisdom, fundamental in its certainty. Yet it is propagated in a society riddled with inequality imbalance and division under the yoke of a biased all pervasive media and administered by corrupt and equally biased ministers. Telling people they are going to benefit from working stacking shelves in the businesses run by their friends, many of whom sit unelected in government, is hardly wise. Who does this benefit? Where is the paper trail that connects months of shelf stacking at no wage to a life of good character and rampant opportunity? Even if a candidate wanted a career in Poundland, striving to be Mr Poundland, his chances are made exponentially slimmer by virtue of the government sending everyone there as ‘work experience’. This creates the dog eat dog world we live in as the aspirant is forced to compete for the increasingly fewer positions that appear the higher he ascends the pyramid scheme of capitalist working life. Yet he does so because these are the positions that pay the most, and that’s what’s important apparently.

Duncan Smith is a dangerous zealot. A short tempered and ignorant man with too much power who has become convinced (perhaps even manipulated) that welfare is not just a drain on the public purse, but itself is unhealthy. Apparently being on the dole is a dangerous dependency. Yet no one can explain how this makes any sense; people are not dependent on welfare, they are dependent on money. In this working and unemployed are the same, including many politicians (i.e. those not born into inherited wealth, status and privilege). If state dependency is so bad then perhaps Mr Duncan Christ should give up his expenses. That won’t happen; quite the opposite as the MP’s receive an extra £100 a year second home allowance from April (an act of supremely malicious irony). Meanwhile the Tories want an extra 30% wage. Is that dependency or just self entitlement? It certainly reeks of all the things the Tories, in particular, advocate as the great moral failings of the day.

Workfare is a myth. We all know it has nothing to do with experience or opportunity. If it did it would be more sensibly applied and with more sensitivity to the finances of the individual. Instead it’s another portal to the hell of sanctions to expedite cuts to welfare. It’s a stealth tax on the unemployed. You will note how people that are sanctioned are ‘exempt’ from workfare: Duncan Christ isn’t going to start paying people’s benefits so they can attend a workfare placement anymore than the employer (pimp) is going to pay them, but without that financial support – a prime example of how capitalism contradicts itself – the sanctioned candidate couldn’t attend. How could he afford to get there or feed himself while on the placement?

Yet again, the centre cannot hold.


  1. "Apparently being on the dole is a dangerous dependency. Yet no one can explain how this makes any sense; people are not dependent on welfare, they are dependent on money."

    Bingo. People in work are as "dependant" as people on the dole or other benefits. It makes me chuckle when I hear people say those on benefits should aspire to be more independent by taking up paid work, even though people in work are utterly dependent on their bosses continuing to employ them, and on the vagaries of the economy's health. Capitalism is ultimately what makes us all dependent, and only the super rich are in any way truly independent...

    1. Absolutely.

      They keep talking about welfare lifestyle and welfare dependency but don't define or explain it. Just smoke and mirrors. As if capitalist right wingers - tories don't support a NMW or indeed workers rights - would suddenly start paying more money if the tax credits system was dismantled. Yet there is nothing to stop them paying more which would achieve the same end of rendering tax credits obsolete. Odious right wing ethics soaked in hypocrisy.


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