For society to work as smoothly and efficiently as possible, all members need to haul their own loads. This does not pose a problem for most of us. Unfortunately, a small number of able-bodied adults fall through the cracks of our system and end up requiring income support in the form of welfare.
A number of legitimate situations may merit government-given social assistance. But if we want to help minimize the number of long-term welfare cases and prevent abuse of the system, we need to establish standards that require those who receive welfare to earn it.
So-called "workfare," which requires adults to complete a minimum number of days per year of entry-level government-assigned labour in order to receive welfare payments, is the best solution to this problem. The benefit of workfare is two-fold; taxpayers receive a substantial benefit for their investment in the social services system, and recipients are given real-world job experience that aids in their personal development and helps them overcome the most serious barrier to meaningful employment - a lack of recent work experience.
A broad array of job choices exists for such a program. Every city, town or community, no matter how rural, has a steady supply of physical labour that can be done by anyone but frequently ends up going undone. Whether it's picking up trash; acting as a school-area crossing guard; clerical work for town councils, libraries or other government services; or any other number of tasks, the government can find jobs that need doing.
In urban areas, the possibilities are even greater as workfare can take the form of a subsidy or tax break for local businesses who employ workfare recipients. These sorts of subsidies are offered regularly as part of halfway-house programs for former convicts who are re-entering society, and could no doubt be adapted for adults on welfare who are re-entering the workforce.
After a few months of participation in workfare, recipients will have built up an array of work experience that can help them to seek a full-time job. Besides the economic benefits of leaving the government dole and becoming independent earners, this process can create a sense of personal accomplishment in the worker, inspiring the sort of confidence necessary to handle the real-world challenges faced by all adults.
In the meantime, society has accrued a substantial benefit from the worker-for-welfare. Rather than merely taking from the public coffers, these workers perform essential services that help make our communities cleaner, safer and more efficient.
Critics of workfare have two key objections to the process that are important to discuss. First, they allege that workfare amounts to a form of slave labour. This couldn't be further from the truth. Such workers are paid a fair wage, and those who gain the experience necessary to "graduate" from the program are free to pursue better jobs that lead to economic independence.
Second, critics claim that workfare prevents adults from returning to school or otherwise improving themselves. Certainly, some programs (including the notorious U.S. welfare reforms implemented during the 1980s by President Ronald Reagan) have failed in this way, but this is an issue linked to poor implementation of workfare - not a problem with the idea itself. In fact, in Canada there is a wealth of non-welfare financial supports for adults wishing to return to vocational school or university.
The provision of welfare is a moral duty. Society must take care of its less fortunate members; the important thing to remember, though, is that the best way to do this is to help them become independent. This cannot be done through a system that gives constant handouts.
Peter Fenwick, former leader of the Newfoundland New Democratic Party, wrote that the only way we can improve our employment situation is to stop "demanding more and more of the public purse," and start "making sure (we) stand on our own two feet." Workfare allows the government to improve the lives of its poorest citizens while ensuring that middle-class families are not being taxed to pay for those who choose not to contribute.
For a brighter, cleaner, happier and wealthier society, we must make sure that everyone has both the opportunity and the obligation to do their share.
I live out in Edmonton, AB, and originated from Newfoundland. It is absolutely disgusting, to see how the immigrants are given welfare checks, upon their arrival to this country. An abled working Canadian will work, and pay into our Canada Pension Plan, for 40 to 50 years, and the maximum that can be collected, upon retirement, is $1,021.00. The immigrant lands here, and is entitled to monthly checks, for the first 5 years, of $2100.00, which totals to an accumulated amount of $125,000.00. Also, any training is paid for, covering their lifetime, and they are eligible for Federal Tax exemption, for the first 5 years, not to mention many other subsidies, that they qualify for. Make no wonder they all flock here, as the Canadian Dummy ( the working class), keep on working, so as the Welfare checks can be distributed to the useless, and to the lazy, while our retired folk starve, and freeze to death. Who formed this country, I wonder? Certainly, the governing idiots, do not appreciate the ones who toiled to help form "this great land". What a joke!!!
Brett K.A Dawe, Edmonton, ALberta.