Last August, the Israeli government has made substantial changes to an employment programme, after protests by participants and activists. Community organisations consider the changes a victory, but remain critical.
The programme - operated by Dutch, American and British companies - is modelled on the American Wisconsin Works (W2) programme. According to the W2 philosophy, the unemployed have to work in return for the benefits they receive. This ‘work first’ approach has been adopted by Anglo-Saxon countries, the Netherlands and Israel.
Recently, the British TUC warned that forcing the unemployed to do unpaid work for extended periods “would exploit claimants, unfairly discriminate against companies not benefiting from such free labour and undercut the pay and conditions of existing workers”.
In a few American cities, trade unions and community organisations have tried to organise workfare participants and to have living wage regulations apply to them.