Workfare, not Welfare

January 1 st 1986

In 35 states in America, public assistance programs are combining voluntary or mandatory work with welfare in order to benefit the poor both in the short and long term. Instead of just handing out cheques, welfare programs are providing job placement services, on-the-job training, career planning, and educational scholarships. Day care centres have been opened for mothers on welfare who want to find work, and courses in job-finding skills as well as bus fare to look for a job are provided.

Massachusetts' two-year-old Employment and Training Choices program (ET) is voluntary, yet in 1984 over two-thirds of the state's 53,000 welfare recipients volunteered for the program, and about 17,000 of those have since found full-time jobs ET provides schooling in math and language for those who need it, on-the-job training in local industries, or courses to teach new skills. Twenty thousand people are now waiting to take part in ET.

Mitchell Ginsberg, Dean Emeritus of the Columbia School of Social Work, observes that "over the past decade the concepts of self-reliance, pride and productivity have transformed the way we try to help the poor." However, Ginsberg warns, "the thrust for reform is coming from people who want simply to cut costs. lf those savings don't occur we could see a return to systems where people just want to make sure people aren't getting something for nothing" (Toronto Star, November 1985).


Harry Antonides came to Canada in 1948, initially working as a farm hand and railway labourer. After over a decade working in a chemical plant in Sarnia, Ontario, Harry joined the newly forming Christian Labour Association of Canada (CLAC) in 1962 as a field representative. By 1970 Harry became director of research and education. In 1974, he was a founding member of the Work Research Foundation (now Cardus) and publisher of their sole publication, Comment magazine. A prolific writer and dynamic speaker, Harry delivered lectures all over North America and published numerous articles, reviews, and essays. He is author of several books on Christianity, labour, and economics, including Multinationals and the Peacable Kingdom (1978) and Stones for Bread: The Social Gospel and its Contemporary Legacy (1985). Harry is retired and lives with his wife Janet in Willowdale, Ontario.