‘Employment First’: Activating the British Welfare State


Over the past decade there has been radical change in the British welfare state. The Government has introduced a new welfare contract where the ‘rights and responsibilities’ of working age adults receiving state benefits have been redefined to encourage, and increasingly require, their active participation in paid employment. This has involved a parallel ‘activation’ of entitlements and obligations and of the services delivered by welfare state institutions.

This chapter considers the new combinations of job search assistance, obligations and programmes; and ‘make work pay’ reforms, introduced in Great Britain (GB) since 1997. It assesses evidence on the impacts of the strategy and the challenges faced as activation requirements are extended to workless lone parents and people with health problems and disabilities.

The British case merits attention for several reasons. Firstly, New Labour has sought explicitly to synthesise ‘what works’ from both neo-liberal and social democratic welfare traditions with some analysts discerning the emergence of an “Anglo-social welfare model, incorporating and reconciling economic performance and flexibility with equality and social justice” (Dixon and Pearce 2005).


Great Britain Lone Parent National Minimum Wage Incapacity Benefit British Welfare 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

List of abbreviations


Benefits Agency


Condition Management Programme


Council Tax Benefit


Child Tax Credit


Department of Social Security


Department of Work and Pensions


European Convention of Human Rights


Effective Marginal Tax Rate


Employment Support Allowance


Employment Service


Employment Zone


Great Britain


Gross Domestic Product


Official Record of Parliamentary Proceedings, Written Answer from Minister


Housing Benefit


Her Majesty’s Treasury


Human Rights Act


Intensive Activity Period


Incapacity Benefit


Institute for Fiscal Studies


Income Support


Jobcentre Plus


Jobseekers Allowance


Jobseekers Agreement


Labour Force Survey


Manpower Services Commission


National Audit Office


New Deal for Disabled People


New Deal for Lone Parents


New Deal Personal Adviser


New Deal for Young People

ND25 plus NEP

National Employment Panel


National Insurance


National Minimum Wage


Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development


Office for National Statistics


Personal Adviser


Social Security Advisory Committee


United Kingdom


Work Based Learning for Adults


Work Focused Interview


Working Families Tax Credit


Working Tax Credit


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of PortsmouthUK
  2. 2.The Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Social Law in MunichGermany

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