The National Party says prisoners who refuse to work should not be eligible for parole.
National has also confirmed it would allow the private management of prisons to resume, as part of its prisons policy released on Tuesday, 28 October.
National Party leader John Key says work can help with rehabilitation, but prisoners currently do an average of just 15 hours a week, and one in 20 who are capable of working refuse to do so.
He says National would ensure that prisoners did not take jobs away from other New Zealanders, and some of the money earned could go to funds for victims.
National also wants a return to competitive tendering for prison management, on a case by case basis; allowing the private sector to run prisons.
Mr Key says the past decade has seen confidence in the Corrections Department seriously challenged.
Labour's leader Helen Clark says her party believes imprisoning someone is a core responsibility of the state, and should be carried out in the public prison system.
She says an experiment with privatisation of the system towards the end of the last National Government showed it was more expensive.