London: The long-term unemployed may be forced to do unpaid work or lose their welfare benefits under plans to be outlined by the UK government this week.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will announce that claimants needing work experience may be put on four-week community placements of 30 hours a week. If they refuse, they risk having their benefits stopped for at least three months.

"What we are talking about here is people who have not been used to working having both the opportunity and perhaps a bit more of a push as well to experience the workplace from time to time," Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC television Saturday.

"The vast majority of people in Britain think that's the right thing to do," he said.

The government will announce the plans later this week as part of a set of measures aimed at reducing the £200 billion (Dh1.20 trillion) annual cost of welfare as Prime Minister David Cameron seeks to eradicate the record budget deficit.

Five million Britons claim out-of-work benefits and 1.4 million have been receiving benefits for nine of the last 10 years, the government estimates. In October, there were 1.47 million people claiming unemployment benefits.

"There are people who have never known anything but benefit," Defence Secretary Liam Fox said in an interview with Sky News.

"The culture of work is very important and those who have not had experience of the workplace need to get that."

"The Tories are focusing on the work-shy but offering nothing to the workless, despite the fact that today there are five unemployed people chasing every job vacancy in the country," Douglas Alexander, Labour's work and pensions spokesman, said.