Workfare is an alternative model to conventional social welfare systems which requires recipients to meet certain participation requirements to continue to receive benefits.
(Peck, Jamie and Nik Theodore. 2001. “Exporting workfare/importing welfare to work: exploring the politics of Third Way policy transfer”, Political Geography, Vol. 20, pp. 427-60.)
Workfare is an alternative model to conventional social welfare systems. Traditional welfare benefits are available with little required of the recipient, save their continued search for employment, if that. Under workfare, recipients have to meet certain participation requirements to continue to receive their welfare benefits. These requirements are often a combination of activities that are intended to improve the recipient's job prospects (such as training, rehabilitation and work experience) and those designated as contributing to society (such as unpaid or low-paid work). These programs, now common in the United States (and Australia as "mutual obligation") and Canada, have generated considerable debate and controversy..
There are two main types of workfare: those that encourage direct employment to get individuals off the welfare roll directly into the workforce, and those that are intended to increase human capital by providing training and education to those currently in the welfare system. Jamie Peck and Nik Theodore argue that the American welfare-to-work ‘industry’ has in recent years become an export phenomenon. Policy-makers from around the world have become increasingly captivated by the no-nonsense American method of work-orientated welfare reform, one which is enjoying an unprecedented period of success on the back of an expanding US labour market.