Persistent claimants who refuse help to find work have been warned that they could lose their benefits. John Hutton, the Work and Pensions Secretary, announced a government crackdown on what he called the "can work - won't work" culture.
"We need to ask whether we should expect more from those who remain on Jobseeker's Allowance for long periods of time in return for the help we provide," Mr Hutton said in a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research.
He also said that immigration from eastern Europe had shown up the unwillingness of some Britons to take up available jobs.
There are about 950,000 people claiming Jobseekers' Allowance, of whom 100,000 have spent six of the last seven years on benefit.
The Liberal Democrats' Work and Pensions spokesman, David Laws, said: "If the Government had any serious plans to withdraw benefits from the long-term unemployed, presumably these proposals would already be in the Welfare Reform Bill - which they are not."