JOAN Burton has insisted social welfare must not be a lifestyle choice as she sets about reforming the benefit system.
The Minister for Social Protection said dole payments "must be a trampoline, not a cushion" for people who are out of work.
And she pointed to her own working class background as proof of the importance of finding a job.
Speaking exclusively to Herald political writer Andrew Lynch, Ms Burton said: "I come from a very working-class background.
"My dad was an iron moulder at the CIE foundry in Inchicore, my mother worked for Batchelors in Cabra West and I was always expected to have a job myself.
"Social welfare must be a trampoline, not a cushion -- I want to reform the system so that it does more to actively help people get back into employment."
The Labour Dublin West TD said the "most depressing" part of her job is meeting large numbers of young people "with excellent qualifications who come out of college and find they can't get a job". She added: "I constantly remind my cabinet colleagues that we have over 300,000 people who are completely locked out of work."