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(Not) Taking Account of Precarious Employment: Workfare Policies and Lone Mothers in Ontario and the UK


Address for correspondence: Patricia M. Evans, School of Social Work, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, ON K1S 5B6, Canada. Email:


Workfare is, at least in part, a policy response to changing labour markets and the expansion taking place in jobs that are low-paid, irregular and insecure. For lone mothers, increasingly the focus of workfare policies, precarious employment creates special challenges. However, the nature of the jobs that are available to women on social assistance has received relatively little attention in the workfare literature, which focuses more on individual characteristics, supports to employment, and programme impacts. Drawing upon both primary and secondary sources and using Ontario, the province with the most developed workfare programme in Canada, this article examines the ways in which policies support and enforce precarious employment. The article also considers the implications of precarious employment for UK policy, which has not (yet) adopted workfare for lone mothers, although incremental steps in that direction are taking place as employment is increasingly viewed as the appropriate objective of income support programmes for lone mothers.

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