Incentive Programs to Increase Workforce Participation

Summary of Study

To reduce the burden on social assistance programs, alleviate poverty, promote the values of self-sufficiency and personal responsibility, and meet workforce requirements, it is critical that all who are able to work are brought into the labor force. The Government Accountability Office has reviewed an array of research on various programs to increase workforce participation through incentives. Findings suggest that approaches combining job search assistance with some education and training are more effective than those that employ just one type of support.

Human capital development programs help people subject to work requirements build their skills and improve their education, for instance. In the case of career pathways, contextual learning is facilitated to build skill levels and help people access high-demand occupations. Math, writing, and reading skills are honed using real-world and industry-related content. These initiatives are most effective in the form of short-term assignments (as opposed to programs such as GED preparation and remedial education, which sometimes leave participants languishing with no clear progress).

Employment programs free of work requirements help disadvantaged individuals increase earnings without the repercussions associated with mandates. Jobs Plus Initiative (JPI) is a federal program for residents in public housing. These individuals have access to training and employment services, along with rent accommodations that allow them to keep significant percentages of their earnings. For up to 48 months, program participants earn as much as they can without negatively impacting their housing eligibility. Jobs Plus has been successful in terms of scope and scale, creating impact in cities of various demographics.

With multiple components of these evidence-based models already in place in Pennsylvania, it is recommended that additional funding and resources be allocated to thoroughly evaluate the most promising approaches and identify and eliminate barriers to fully realizing them. The federal government should also extend support to states for the enhancement of employment and training programs.

Read the full policy report here.