Welfare‐to‐Work, Structural Injustice and Human Rights

Virginia Mantouvalou


This article discusses welfare‐to‐work schemes, places schemes with strict conditionality in the theoretical framework of structural injustice, and argues that they may violate human rights law. Welfare‐to‐work schemes impose obligations on individuals to seek and accept work on the basis that otherwise they will be sanctioned by losing access to social support. The schemes are often presented as the best route out of poverty. However, the system in the UK, characterised by strict conditionality, coerces the poor and disadvantaged into precarious work, and conditions of in‐work poverty. Forcing people to work in these conditions creates and sustains widespread and routine structures of exploitation. The article further argues that a framework of ‘state‐mediated structural injustice’ is the best way of explaining the wrong. It finally claims that this injustice violates principles that are enshrined in human rights law, which the authorities have an obligation to examine and address.

Published September 2020
Frequency Bi-Monthly
Volume 83
Issue 5
Print ISSN 0026-7961
Online ISSN 1468-2230