Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
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Public works (PW) programmes are long-standing development interventions that have become increasingly popular in recent years due to their potential ‘double dividend’ of reducing poverty and fostering growth by transferring income directly to the poor, while at the same time building and improving the infrastructure and/or delivering other public goods and services. Originally used as tools for ad-hoc poverty relief in response to economic downturns and natural disasters, they are now being used more and more as long-term social protection tools.
As ambitions rise, so there are likely to be more trade-offs, however. Hence, the question this paper seeks to answer is whether PW programmes are fit to serve multiple objectives and how they should be designed in order to do so. We concentrate on the effects of PW programmes on sustainable employment, which should be a good proxy for their effects on poverty reduction and growth.
Based on a review of the empirical evidence, we make the following recommendations for the design of PW programmes:
First, in order to promote productive investments and self-employment among beneficiaries, PW programmes need to generate sufficient employment in a reliable manner over a long period.