work, usually of little importance, created to keep a person from being idle or unemployed.

1935–40, Americanism; noun use of verb phrase make work Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Word Origin & History

"busy-work, activity of no value," 1937, Amer.Eng., from make (v.) + work.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

make-work definition

Publicly provided employment that is designed primarily to relieve unemployment and only incidentally to accomplish important tasks. If private employers are hiring few people because of a business slump, the government can “make work” for people to do.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Some courses are excellent and others are make-work courses designed to deliver
  minimal post-secondary rigor.
These projects morph into bloated bureaucratic make-work projects.
Lacking an overarching mission, astronauts putter around in orbit doing
They've all been make-work to give the shuttle something to do.
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