Unemployed people who lack basic English, maths and computing skills should be stripped of benefits unless they take up training, Labour will say.
Under the plans, all new claimants of Jobseeker's Allowance would have to sit a basic skills test within six weeks.
The move is set to be unveiled by MP Rachel Reeves in her first major speech as shadow work and pensions secretary.
But the Conservatives accused her of producing an inferior copy of one of their policies.
Labour estimates that about 300,000 people a year could be affected.
Continue reading the main story
After 13 years of Labour running our education system, many young people looking for work do not have the English and Maths skills they need to get a job”
According to pre-released extracts of the speech, Ms Reeves will say: "We all know that basic skills are essential in today's jobs market, but the shocking levels of English and maths among too many jobseekers are holding them back from getting work.
"This traps too many jobseekers in a vicious cycle between low paid work and benefits.
"Government plans in this area just aren't enough. They're now asking jobseekers who exit the failed Work Programme to take up literacy and numeracy training, three whole years after those people first make a claim for benefits.
"A Labour government will introduce a basic skills test to assess all new claimants for Jobseeker's Allowance within six weeks of claiming benefits.
"Those who don't have the skills they need for a job will have to take up training alongside their job search or lose their benefits.
"Labour's basic skills test will give the long-term unemployed a better chance of finding a job and will help us to earn our way out of the cost-of-living crisis."
On Sunday, Labour leader Ed Miliband said it was wrong to "demonise" people on benefits, but there was a minority of people who could work and were not doing so.
He told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show: "Labour has clear plans to say to every young person who has been unemployed for more than a year that they need to go back into work, and we'll make sure they get a job, and every older person unemployed for more than two years.
"I think there are lots of people who are looking for work, who are desperate for work and who find that Britain is in the midst of a massive crisis of being able to find work in some places, a big cost-of-living crisis, that our country faces."
But a Conservative spokesman said: "Labour are copying a Conservative policy that already exists and that is superior to the one they are proposing.
"After 13 years of Labour running our education system, many young people looking for work do not have the English and Maths skills they need to get a job.
"That's why, starting in some areas at first, anyone aged 18 to 21 signing on without these basic skills will be required to undertake training from day one or lose their benefits."
Poor Rachel Reeves MP. Her press release on compulsory literacy tests for the jobless is littered with errors