Employment-Intensive Investment in Timor-Leste

Web page | 11 September 2015

Current EIIP Involvement

Ongoing Projects:

  • Enhancing Rural Access (ERA) – EU (USD 15m)
  • Roads for Development (R4D) – DFAT (USD 30m)
Currently, EIIP is implementing two large projects in Timor Leste to improve the capacity of both the private and the public sector to manage the rural road network.

The Enhancing Rural Access project (ERA) is funded by the EU and has as the main objective to improve the access of rural communities to services and to income opportunities by improving the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural roads. It mainly works to develop the capacity of small-scale private contractors and collaborates closely with the Don Bosco Training center to strengthen their capacity to provide training services to private sector contractors. Before the first phase ends in 2016, the project will have executed labour-based rural road rehabilitation contracts (140km under 100 contracts creating some 500,000 workdays), trained local civil works contractors and supervisors in contracts management (500 managers) and achieved that local civil works contractors and supervisors have become competent in labour-based rural road rehabilitation and maintenance (400 technical staff). The project is ending in early 2016 and the EU is considering financing a second phase under their next overall rural development programme.

The ERA project is supporting this initiative by building up capacity in the private sector. Local contractors are trained to carry out labour-based rural road works for the Government. Training programmes are established and integrated into existing national training institutes to provide technical support and training to the private sector in a sustainable manner. The National Certificate Labour-Based Technology for Road Works has been certified and Don Bosco has been accredited as an institution.

The Roads for Development project (R4D) is concentrating on the public sector. Its main counterpart is the Ministry of Public Works (MPW). The main objective is to ensure that women and men in rural Timor-Leste are deriving social and economic benefits from improved road access. A first phase of the projects runs until mid-2016 and seeks to establish a rural roads unit in the MPWRRU or KMU, develop a Rural Roads Master Plan, establish a protocol for developing Annual Action Plans, establish a procurement system for small contractors, develop the capacity for technical oversight of rural road packages implemented and deliver the capital investments in construction, rehabilitation and maintenance (450km rehabilitation and 1150km maintenance with 4.7million workdays created). R4D also ends towards the end of 2016 and the donor (DFAT) is considering a second phase and ILO execution.

In particular the R4D project is supporting the Government to develop new policies and plans to develop the rural road sector. The R4D project by itself is a sector-wide approach and will to a large extent determine how the rural road sector will develop in the future in Timor Leste. It is the largest rural road development project in the country. In all of its work the project is promoting labour-based technologies for rural road construction, rehabilitation and maintenance. These technologies will be incorporated in technical guidelines and contracts necessary to translate the policies and guidelines into action on the ground. R4D has a comprehensive institutional and capacity development component. It will strengthen existing institutions both at national and sub-national level and establish the necessary capacity to plan, design, implement and supervise labour-based rural road works.

Historical Information

The EIIP has implemented a series of technical cooperation projects in Timor Leste.
The breakdown of law and order in and around the capital Dili after the violence in 2006, led to looting, burning of houses, shops and government offices as well as to the displacement of large number of people to IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camps in the capital but also in the districts.

The Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion (MLCR) was charged with organising the immediate distribution of rice to IDPs and families in need. After discussion with MLCR, the ILO proposed an alternative method for distributing the rice and opened discussions on the idea of implementing Cash-for-Work (CFW). CFW activities over time evolved into more sustainable labour-based rural road works:

The "Work for the Nation Project" was designed to address the need to promote peace and stability by providing 180,000 workdays of short-term employment opportunities (cash for work opportunities) to IDPs and other vulnerable members of the society, particularly unemployed youth – living both in and outside IDP camps.

A successor was developed to continue the good work especially as tensions were high in early 2007 due to the approaching elections. This project title was “Work for Peace”, emphasising the importance of promoting stability during this period.

The YEP Programme, launched in 2008, was a broader-based programme aimed at promoting youth employment with four complimentary objectives. Only the third objective related specifically to CFW, but it was the successor of the two previous CFW projects. The inclusion of CFW in this programme reinforces the importance placed on this method of addressing stability and poverty by the Government and its development partners. By including CFW within YEP it also profits from the linked objectives addressing youth unemployment.

Employment and Investment Policies


In 2006, the Timor-Leste and Development Partners Meeting displayed the government’s commitment to promoting accelerated economic growth under its Combating Poverty as a National Cause Plan, and to progress towards the objectives defined by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly in areas related with the Eradication of Extreme Poverty, and the Development and Implementation of Strategies for Decent and Productive Work.

Against this backdrop, the TIM-Works Project – Investment Budget Execution Support for Rural Infrastructure Development and Employment Generation, under the Employment Intensive Investment Programme of the ILO – was designed to contribute to the government’s priorities of creating employment, reducing poverty, stimulating economic growth and increasing social stability. It represents a short-term bridge between the on-going emergency humanitarian response and the medium-term development initiatives, like the ERA and R4D programmes and the Government Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030.

Targeting strategies

The limited access of young Timorese to employment opportunities has led to a sentiment of deep frustration, which in the past has been expressed in violent and destructive acts.
To fulfill the youth needs of having access to employment, youth were the priority target of the TIM-Works Project, but other vulnerable groups like women, members of displaced households, dismissed military personnel and veterans benefitted.
Enhancing local level access, planning and community capacity
The TIM-Works project was launched in 2008 with funds provided by the Government of Timor-Leste and several donors (Norway, EC, Ireland and Australia), and it was operational in the poorest regions of Timor-Leste, covering all 13 Districts. ILO, in partnership with the Secretariat of State for Vocational Training and Employment , were in charge of the execution of the project, and liaised with the Ministry of Public Works and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
The goal of the TIM-Works Project was to contribute to economic development and poverty reduction by spurring growth in the infrastructure sector. Considering its strategy to use rural infrastructure related works as an opportunity to create employment, the core range of activities were focusing on rural roads repair/rehabilitation, irrigation canals cleaning and restoration, grass cutting and drainage cleaning of national and district roads.
The outputs achieved by 2010 included:
  • the rehabilitation and maintenance of rural roads using labour-based technologies: 300 km of roads rehabilitated and maintained;
  • employment generation: 1,370,000 work days generated, employment provided to 32,500 beneficiaries, of which 57% youth, and including 31% women;
  • capacity building for infrastructure providers in the private and public sectors: 42 government engineers, supervisors, field officers and operations officers trained, 44 community contractors trained and 36 contractors and their supervisors trained;
  • the adaptation of policies and regulations for further up scaling of labour-based methods.
To substantially improve the quality of life of its people and to reduce the incidence of poverty, the Government of Timor-Leste prioritized the accelerated development and improvement of a well-connected and coherent road network and other key infrastructure, which is seen as being fundamental to the country’s development.

Therefore, in 2011, EIIP with EU financing launched the Enhancing Rural Access (ERA) Project, which sought to improve the access to rural areas through the rehabilitation and maintenance of around 150 kilometers of priority roads in Aileu, Ainaro, Bobonaro, Covalima and Ermera Districts.. In 2012 Australia funded their flagship programme Roads for Development (R4D) and entrusted the implementation to ILO. This project introduces a sector-wide approach for the rural road sector and will serve as an example and set the standards for future rural road works in the country.

Further Reading

  • Timor-Leste Strategic Development Plan 2011-2030, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste 2011.