Working Hard or Hardly Working? Examining the Politics of In-Work Conditionality in the UK
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionSocial Policy and Society. 2021 10.1017/S1474746421000294
The intensification of behavioural requirements and punitive measures in unemployment benefits by UK governments has been popular and instrumental to the politics of welfare reform. Yet there is scant research into the politics of extending this approach to working households, known as ‘in-work conditionality’ (IWC), which was introduced in the UK under Universal Credit in 2012. Addressing this gap, we examine the preferences of political parties and voters towards IWC, using data from an online survey of 1,111 adults in 2017, party manifestos and parliamentary debates. While we find evidence of a partisan split between voters and politicians on the left (oppose IWC) and right (support IWC), intra-party divides and the relative infancy of IWC suggests the politics of IWC is not set in stone. This helps to explain the blame avoidance strategies of current and previous Conservative governments responsible for IWC.