Full steam ahead to a workfare state? Analysing the UK Employment Department's abolition

Martin Russell Jones

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20 Citations (SciVal)


In July 1995 the British government announced that the Employment Department was to be abolished and its functions redistributed throughout Whitehall. This article analyses the reasons for this abolition, presenting an argument that is intended to act as a stimulus for further research and policy debate. The article argues that the Employment Department's demise must be seen as part and parcel of a continued restructuring in state intervention from welfare to workfare. In a workfare state, social policy is subordinate to the needs of the market and the unemployed are forced to 'work off' benefits through compulsory participation on training schemes. This argument is developed through an historical analysis of British 'trainingfare' 1979-95, defined as hidden compulsion on training schemes in return for state benefit. Attention is also given to the June 1995 Jobseeker's Act which, it is contended, represents the introduction of a stricter 'trainingfare' regime and a radical restructuring of the welfare state. The article argues that within this new policy framework, there was no role for the Employment Department and the decision to abolish this section of Whitehall is interpreted from this perspective.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-157
Number of pages21
JournalPolicy and Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


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