Public works: an effective safety net for the poor?

Public works: an effective safety net for the poor?

Rigorous evaluations of the impacts of public works programmes in low and middle income countries are limited. Programmes can be successful in terms of targeting poor people, as well as generating short-term employment and income gains for participants. However, there is less evidence in terms of sustainable income gains and the benefits to poor people from the assets created.

Most assessments have found that public works programmes have significant impact in terms of temporary employment creation and increases in participants’ current incomes. However, evidence of impact on enhanced employability, sustainable income gains, and the benefits to poor people from the physical assets created is limited.

Further investigation is needed on the impact and cost effectiveness of public works programmes, looking specifically at channels through which impact occurs:

  • direct impacts in terms of job creation and income transfers to participants, and
  • indirect impacts in terms of (i) enhanced employability through skills development; (ii) wage rates in local labour markets; (iii) income multipliers (through links with the local economy) and (v) how the creation of infrastructure and community facilities affect poverty

 

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