Definition of workfare in US English:



  • A welfare system that requires those receiving benefits to perform some work or to participate in job training.

    • ‘The plan laid out in 1996 to change welfare to workfare recognized and provided for the critical role child care would play in transitioning from government dependency to personal responsibility.’
    • ‘Mandatory workfare was not part of the Alberta reforms.’
    • ‘Welfare recipients are to face new coercive measures to force them into workfare or to accept cheap labor jobs.’
    • ‘Modelled along the lines of US workfare programmes, the New Deal was initially targeted at the young unemployed aged 18 to 24 years and the long-term jobless.’
    • ‘They abruptly slashed welfare rates by 22 percent, used workfare and other regulatory changes to drive people off benefits, froze minimum wages and stopped building social housing.’
    • ‘This was no surprise, since workfare is central to the government's drive to reduce welfare rolls and expenditure and create a ‘flexible’ labor market.’
    • ‘If there is no effective screening to determine who requires workfare, those who do not need assistance may end up being the ones getting it.’
    • ‘The steep cuts the Liberals have made to unemployment insurance benefits and eligibility have been complemented at the provincial level by reductions in welfare benefits and the implementation of workfare.’
    • ‘The New York City Workfare Media Initiative teaches welfare recipients and union workers how to use documentaries about workfare and welfare reform as organizing tools.’
    • ‘It carried out enormous cuts to public services, attacked the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, levied tax increases on working people, and even touted workfare as a replacement for the welfare system.’
    • ‘Furthermore, forcing welfare recipients onto workfare has forced many young people to drop out of school or training programs.’
    • ‘In functional terms, workfare naturalizes and normalizes such job market conditions.’
    • ‘The welfare / workfare transition thus represents an example of qualitative restructuring in state institutions and regulatory settlements.’
    • ‘That approach involves attracting investment by reducing a host of environmental, labour and social regulations, reducing taxes, freezing minimum wage rates and introducing workfare for welfare recipients.’
    • ‘Has the Minister seen any of the research on the outcomes of American workfare and time-limited benefit programmes over the last 10 years, and can he confirm that a Labour Government will not move towards such initiatives?’
    • ‘Therefore, he argues, it is a disguised form of workfare as it will require people to work before they get welfare benefits.’
    • ‘Compulsory workfare will be tightened up for lone parents and the disabled, and a new Child Trust Fund or ‘baby bond’ will be introduced.’
    • ‘Despite the threat workfare poses to public-sector unions, Williams says the labor movement has been sluggish in responding to the issue.’
    • ‘If workfare replaces welfare, wages will become more flexible enabling EU labor markets to absorb immigrants more efficiently.’
    • ‘Though the government's workfare scheme met with some criticism from the liberal establishment, this was muted and sometimes framed within an attack on immigrant labour, designed to sow divisions within the working class.’


1960s: from work + a shortened form of welfare.