4.2 Neo-liberal interpretations of welfare to work
Neo-liberalism begins from an emphasis on the free market, individual freedom and responsibility. Neo-liberal approaches use the ‘less eligibility’ principle. Welfare is thought to distort ‘free’ markets, because it either removes incentives to work, or drives up entry-level pay to rates that are not economical for employers. Neo-liberals tend to advocate what Peck (2001) terms the ‘hard’ Labour Force Attachment model of working for welfare, which places claimants directly into labour markets as a condition of welfare. This is thought to break cycles of dependency by reducing welfare costs and containing wage inflation, following the economic-regulatory rationale. In practice, this model is often conflated with the conservative-inspired social-disciplinary rationale, in which mandatory attachment brings good habits of work. Both facets are visible in Tamarla Owens' experiences in Michigan. ‘Softer’ versions locate the problem in inadequate skills and work experience. This is the Human Capital Development model, based on personal-developmental rationales.
Advocates of the Labour Force Attachment model would argue that NDYP is not a workfare programme. It does not reduce welfare costs, enforce immediate labour market entry, stimulate competition for the lowest paid jobs or even demonstrably help to control wage rates. It is closer to the Human Capital Development model. On its criteria, the NAO's (2002) findings reveal that the programme has succeeded in the core aims of removing large numbers of young people from the unemployed register and obliging them to make themselves employable.