The federal opposition says it’s unlikely the government will get more unemployed people into work because doing so will cost billions.

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Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Welfare reform will be targeted in the May budget as the federal government turn their focus to boosting workforce participation rates.

YourSay: Should the government be tougher with welfare?

In a speech last night, Ms Gillard said taxpayers shouldn’t fund people who can’t support themselves and suggested tougher mutual obligation programs for the jobless.

“Every Australian should pull his or her weight,” she told the Sydney Institute annual dinner on Wednesday night.

“It’s not fair for taxpayers to pay for someone who can support themselves.”

Opposition Treasury spokesman Joe Hockey says the government wants to restart the welfare to work engine which was introduced by the Howard government.

He’s told Macquarie Radio he bets the government won’t put any money towards it because it costs billions of dollars to get people off their backsides trained and into work.

People need to help themselves: Gillard

Ms Gillard has also floated the idea of extending mutual obligation programs for the jobless, and singled out unskilled early school leavers for special mention.

“Some should take up obligations which may not involve working now but will prepare them for work in the future,” Ms Gillard said.

“Things as simple as learning to read and write at a higher level.”

Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott told journalists in Sydney that Ms Gillard’s speech on welfare failed to detail how Labor would implement such a policy.

“This is a government which keeps making vacuous speeches that are full of worthy sentiment but entirely devoid of any new information or any hard policy,” Mr Abbott said.

“There are no proposals. The only hard proposals are the four proposals that I put forward a fortnight ago in a speech which the prime minister obviously read but couldn’t bring herself to echo.”

While it was Ben Chifley’s Labor government which introduced federal unemployment benefits, Ms Gillard said the modern ALP was not the party of welfare dependency.

“If government doesn’t step back when the private sector employs more people, spends more money and builds more projects, we will be chasing the same scarce resources, driving up prices and adding to the inflationary pressures arising from the investment boom,” she said.

“The time for government to step back is in this budget.”

A tax forum, to be held later this year, will examine work incentives in the tax and transfer system.