PEPs are commonly used to increase aggregate demand for labour in contexts where markets do not create productive employment on the required scale or where sufﬁcient formal sector jobs are just not available. As part of a wider employment and social protection policy, public employment programmes can complement private sector employment creation and offer a policy instrument with which to tackle the problems of unemployment and underemployment in developing economies.
Work experience and skills acquired through PEPs can improve a persons’ employability, while the generated income can increase consumption of goods and services which in turn has a direct positive impact on communities and local enterprises. PEPs target the most vulnerable groups in society and create employment, provide income support and develop skills. At the same time, they develop infrastructure assets and services that promote social and economic development – often through a multi-sectoral strategy.
PEPs offer employment opportunities, income security, and the extension of social protection in many countries. They are an integral part of the Social Protection Floor (SPF). They address the situation of working age people who are unemployed or are not receiving social beneﬁts. Such programmes can be designed either in response to a crisis, as part of longer term counter-cyclical employment policy or as part of structural transformation, which also addresses future work challenges where sufﬁcient jobs may not be available.
EIIP has been collaborating extensively with national PEPs, e.g. India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to provide technical support for the design of the infrastructure components of PEPs, advise on measures to improve targeting, and quality and productivity, as well as assisting in the monitoring and assessment of such programmes.
A continuum of PEPs
PEPs refer to any government’s direct employment creation activities to an employment programme, rather than through the civil service. PEPs include a wide spectrum of options, varying from the more conventional public works programmes (PWPs), such as short-term emergency programmes, to employment guarantee programmes. PWPs refer to the more common and traditional programmes, which may be temporary respons- es to speciﬁc shocks and crises. But they can also have a longer term horizon (cash and food for work programmes are within the purview of PWPs).
Employment guarantee programmes refer to long-term rights-based programmes in which some level of entitlement to work is provided. The State acts as an employer of last resort, providing employment to all those willing to work
A Public Works Programme (PWP) tool called The Inter-Agency Social Protection Assessment (ISPA) is a product evolving from multi-agency collaboration, between more than 20 donors and development partners including the ILO, to provide a tool to enable countries to assess the performance of public works programmes and set out possible options for enhancement. It provides inputs to developing policy options and recommendations.