Numerous sayings and quotes about the world of work have been written or spoken by great wits and philosophers over the years. But can you recall many that were overwhelmingly positive?
Most are at the expense of the management or involve a dig at the working environments created by big, nasty corporations; others boil down to wanting to be almost anywhere else but the workplace.
With so many to choose from, it’s difficult to single one out to illustrate the point. Perhaps a quote from one of the big guns, Homer [Simpson]: ‘If you really want something in this life, you have to work for it – now quiet, they’re about to announce the lottery numbers.’
Joking aside, the core message of this week’s welfare green paper – work is good for you – ought to be an easy sell despite our negativity.
Aside from the financial benefits of having a job, being in employment can undoubtedly boost self-esteem and a person’s wellbeing. But is there a danger in accepting work as the norm for everyone?
The government cites all of the above benefits in its arguments for a more streamlined, no-nonsense welfare system, along with the message that people stuck on incapacity benefits must be given sufficient support to realise their full potential.
The economic rationale is by no means played down in all this, as Gordon Brown spells out in his foreword to the paper: ‘We simply cannot afford the high price of large numbers of people on benefits… we need people in work, making the best use of their talents and helping us compete.’
However, the overriding presumption remains that people are better off in work.
Despite the promise of a more personalised approach offering tailored support, how many people will be pushed into work when it’s not in their best interests?
Can an overstretched Jobcentre Plus network (still reeling from thousands of job cuts) cope with this new regime?
And is a payment by results system the best way for private and voluntary sector providers to be rewarded for their role in getting people into jobs?
When David Freud put forward this proposal in his welfare review last year campaigners warned there could be serious pitfalls, with vulnerable people pushed into unsuitable jobs as providers rush to hit their targets.
Will this new system have the flexibility to support those furthest from the workplace? Sometimes work isn’t good for you.
Austin Macauley, editor, New Start Online magazine