Workfare or Fair Work: Women, Welfare, and Government Work Programs

Workfare or Fair Work: Women, Welfare, and Government Work Programs

Workfare or Fair Work: Women, Welfare, and Government Work Programs

Workfare or Fair Work: Women, Welfare, and Government Work Programs

Synopsis

Can the welfare system in the United States accord people dignity? That question is often left out of the current debates over welfare and workfare. In this provocative book, Nancy Rose argues that the United States has been successful in the past--notably during the New Deal and in the 1970s--at shaping programs that gave people "fair work."
However, as Rose documents, those innovative job creation programs were voluntary and were mainly directed at putting men back to work. Women on welfare, and especially women of color, continue to be forced into a very different kind of program: mandatory, punitive, and demeaning. Such workfare programs are set up for failure. They rarely train women for jobs with futures, they ignore the needs of the women's families, and they do not pay an honest wage. They perpetuate poverty rather than prevent it.

Rose uses the history of U.S. job creation programs to show alternatives to mandatory workfare. Any effort to redesign welfare in America needs to pay close attention to the lessons drawn from this perceptive analysis of the history of women, welfare, and work. This is an indispensable book for students, scholars, policymakers, politicians, and activists--for everyone who knows the system is broken and wants to fix it.

Excerpt

"California GAIN Program Requires Welfare Mothers to Work." "ET Choices in Massachusetts Provides Work and Training for AFDC Recipients." "President Clinton Vows to 'End Welfare as We Know It' by Terminating AFDC Payments after Two Years on the Rolls." "Newt Gingrich Proposes Personal Responsibility Act to End 'Welfare Dependency' as Part of His Contract With America." Headlines such as these were common in the 1980s and early 1990s as an array of programs forced poor women to work outside their homes. Drawing on negative stereotypes of recipients of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), commonly known as welfare, and justified by arguments that "welfare dependency" should be replaced by the "independence" that comes from working for wages, the federal government gave individual states wide discretion in setting up welfare-to-work programs. Ignoring the value of their caretaking work in the home, Work Incentive (WIN) demonstration programs in the 1980s and Job Opportunities and Basic Skills (JOBS) programs in the 1990s required welfare recipients considered employable to perform additional work in order to remain eligible for welfare.

These mandatory work programs exacerbated the growing impoverishment of women. Providing little education and training that would prepare women for jobs paying high enough wages to get them not only off welfare but also out of poverty, welfare recipients were channeled instead into low-wage labor markets. And if they failed to find a job they were usually required to work off their welfare payments in Community Work Experience Programs (CWEPs), more commonly known . . .

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