This chapter is concerned with the labour market as an entry point into recent social policy and development debates. In particular, it explores the role of employment-based social protection where benefits such as health care, pensions and insurance are provided through the employer rather than the state. The provision of social protection through the employment relationship highlights, in some countries, the tension between universal social provision and more ‘productivist’ conceptions of citizenship. The latter is linked with the view that measurable economic productivity is central to organizing society. This has led to important debates about the linking of social policy to employment; a debate which has a particular nuance in the development context because of high levels of informality, but which is also now relevant across the globe. The chapter reviews some of these debates and suggests that, particularly in the countries of the Global South, the recognition of work can be achieved by working within a productivist approach which preserves some of the original social compact between labour and capital.