Feature

United Kingdom: Why unpaid workfare isn't slavery

The Twitterverse is upset about a new program that gives people on the dole the experience of working for a few hours a week without pay, said Christina Patterson at The Independent.

Christina Patterson
The Independent

If you believe some people, Britain is running on slave labor, said Christina Patterson. The Twitterverse got all upset last week about a new government workfare program that gives people on the dole the valuable experience of working for a few hours a week at supermarkets such as Tesco—without pay. Those who tweeted their umbrage over this apparently believe that you can be paid a weekly allowance, plus a housing benefit of up to $32,000 a year, plus benefits for your kids, “and still be a slave” if you put in a few hours at a grocery checkout in exchange for all that taxpayer money. Am I missing something here? It’s “called Job Seeker’s Allowance because when you claim it you’re meant to be looking for a job.” Don’t these people realize that employers would rather hire someone who has actually worked before than someone who has not? Have they not read the studies that show that more than half the people who completed the workfare program have gotten real jobs and gotten off benefits altogether? Doing an unpaid stint in a boring job while you’re on unemployment isn’t anyone’s idea of a dream occupation. But it’s not slavery. And it “may be the best chance for long-term employment that some of us get.”

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