129 Int'l Lab. Rev. 677 (1990)
The Road to Workfare: Alternative to Welfare or Threat to Occupation

handle is hein.journals/intlr129 and id is 691 raw text is: International Labour Review, Vol. 129, 1990, No. 6

The road to workfare:
Alternative to welfare or threat to
occupation ?
1. Flexible labour markets, marginalisation
and the rationale of workfare
T he growth in the number of people classified or regarded as poor in
affluent industrialised societies was a festering reality of the 1980s.
Some attribute it primarily to low levels of aggregate demand, others to the
irreversible drift out of the economic mainstream of those unable to adapt to
increasingly flexible and fragmented labour markets; some see the social
security system as having become dysfunctional in the context of the more
flexible labour markets, while others claim that large numbers of workers are
unemployable at existing wage levels, or at levels that would provide them
with a reasonable lifestyle.
Whatever the causes, developments in industrialised countries during
the past decade have created a proliferation of groups at the lower, more
precarious end of the labour market. Perhaps the most rapidly growing
category consists of what can be called flexiworkers, those who are in and
out of work, some of them combining several different work statuses or
activities, some half way between wage- and self-employment and enjoying
neither a steady income nor adequate entitlement to occupational (firm-
specific) welfare or social security. Such flexiworkers are vulnerable to
marginalisation, in that they can easily slip into chronic poverty, partly
because they have no regular employment or other forms of labour security.'
However, below them in terms of status, income and lifestyles are those who
have been described, rightly or wrongly, as an underclass. 2 Essentially,
this consists of those who have supposedly slipped from marginal labour
force involvement to outright detachment, estranged from the world of
labour force work and from the major networks of social support. They tend
*International Labour Office.
On the concept of labour security, see Standing (1990).
2 For definitions see, for instance, Wilson (1987), pp. 6-8. Critics seem to mix up the
motives of those who use the term with the reality the term attempts to convey, i.e. poverty
combined with detachment from regular economic activity. For critiques see Lister (1990) and
Macnicol (1987), inter alia.

Copyright 0 International Labour Organisation 1990


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