Work: the best route out of poverty?

Issue 137 (Autumn 2010)

Ever since New Labour first set the welfare reform bandwagon in motion in 2006, the mantra of work has been used by all sides of the political spectrum as ‘proof’ that the benefits system is in need of large-scale reform. The ‘logic’ is this: work is the best route out of poverty. The benefits system, by its very nature provides a disincentive to work. Ergo, the benefits system traps people in poverty. Ergo, we must reform the benefits system. QED. But, asks Nick Jones, is work always the best route out of poverty?