Gardening on the dole: workfare, punishment or pleasure?

The Daily Mail reports that under a UK government policy announced yesterday ‘the feckless unemployed will be forced to take part in a punishing US-style ‘workfare’ scheme involving gardening, clearing litter and other menial tasks’. It is a bad account of what could be a good policy. Giving people money for doing something is better than giving them money for doing nothing. Work is not a punishment; it is what the world does. But gardens already suffer from a skill shortage and gardening is not a ‘menial task’ and it should not be assumed that the unemployed are feckless or unskilled. Many over 40s know about gardening and lose their jobs because of market conditions or bad management. Surely it is healthier and more pleasurable to work as gardeners, or to help for elderly people living at home, or similar, than to get the dole and watch TV.

4 thoughts on “Gardening on the dole: workfare, punishment or pleasure?

  1. Paul

    The other point is that with this scheme, aside from the fact that it’s punishment (I can’t see the Government or their agencies actually being very interested in helping people develop their skills and reaching their full potential) is that the Government would be opting themselves out of their own minimum wage laws.

    If they gave wanted to use people on JSA, for instance, they could work them a maximum of just under eleven hours a week. So it would work out to being just over two hours a day. Any more than that, they start breaking their own laws.

    If it was genuinely about helping people get into work I don’t see too much of a problem with it but I just think it’ll be used as an instrument to humiliate and exploit already quite poor people by using forced labour as an excuse not to pay people the going rate.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I do not know much about the JSA (Job Seeker’s Allowance) but when Ian Duncan Smith etc say that people ‘earn’ more on social security than from a job, doesn’t that mean that they are getting more money/hour from the state than they would from working? If this is correct then it would be a change from ‘paying people for doing nothing’ to ‘paying people for doing something’.


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