Extending social protection to the rural population in lower-income countries is a global priority, with both workfare and welfare playing significant roles. Workfare makes transfers to beneficiaries subject to their meeting work requirements, whereas welfare programmes do so unconditionally or subject to conditions not related to labour. Although workfare schemes are more costly, they are often put forward as a favoured option for supporting the rural working poor, as they can supposedly:
- Impact livelihoods through the cash transferred, the assets created, and the skills developed;
- Increase the effectiveness of targeting through self-targeting;
- Be more politically sustainable, since they reduce the risk of ‘welfare dependency’ and because attaching conditions often makes programmes palatable for taxpayers.
However, there are also strong counterarguments to these statements: