At least 2,000 families receiving unemployment welfare could find themselves better off under a new scheme that allows them to keep more pay from jobs. Under the old system, dole recipients had to work at least 120 hours and earn at least $3,200 a month to keep a portion of their welfare - any less and they would lose all of the benefit. But under a new scheme designed to encourage people to join the job market, announced in Wednesday's Budget, dole recipients will be able to keep a portion of their social assistance regardless of the number of hours they work. They can keep half - up to a maximum of $1,085. The previous criteria were meant to encourage recipients to find a proper job but were criticised by social workers as too rigid. Director of Social Welfare Andrew Leung Kin-pong said he hoped the new arrangement would eventually help more dole recipients to find a full-time job. 'We understand that it is very difficult for new arrivals and single parents to find a job that can meet the requirements at the very beginning. 'They will think because their wage cannot be exempted, why bother to do the job?' Mr Leung said he expected about 2,000 families to benefit under the scheme. He stressed the new system did not aim to force dole recipients into the labour market but would give them an incentive to pull themselves out of the welfare net. A date for implementation of the scheme has not been set. Social security spending is estimated to reach $21.3 billion in the coming financial year.