IBSA International Conference on South-South Cooperation: Theme III: Income security and targeting (wage levels, employability, social protection and other decent work elements) & poverty alleviation

Meeting document | New Delhi, India | 20 February 2012

The Workshop will deliberate on the following aspects:

Many countries were grappling with unemployment challenges before the crisis - and will continue to do so after the crisis is over. So while the crisis has highlighted the role of public employment, there is also a wider case for ongoing public investment in employment creation, and for public employment – and employment guarantees – to form a key part of ongoing employment policy and to act as an instrument for social protection.

How are wages set in targeted employment programmes? Who sets them, at what level – and with what impacts on existing jobs and labour standards? These are critical policy issues in the design of targeted employment programmes. The Workshop will consider these and other issues relevant to conditions at work, as well as the potential impact on demand and supply of labour at a more systemic level.

The Workshop will highlight and discuss the choices and trade-offs that confront planners and policy makers in the design of targeted employment programmes. PEP/EGS programmes typically aim to achieve at least the following main outcomes: (i) employment for participants; (ii) Income/ transfer for participants; and (iii) Infrastructure and/or services – provided by participants, to achieve a wider social or economic policy purpose. But in practice, there are often trade-offs between these complementary objectives that need to be taken into account in the design process.

While some targeted employment programmes are state-lead initiatives, implemented with little consultation or negotiation, there are also many instances where they arise from processes of social dialogue, stakeholder negotiation or as a response to social mobilization at a grassroots level. NGOs and CBOs have been integrated into PEP/EGS in different capacities, and play key roles in holding government accountable and ensuring transparency.

For many policy makers and Treasury officials, the key obstacle to the establishment of a public employment programme (and even more so for an employment guarantee scheme) is the question of costs and affordability. This is a question that should always be posed along with an assessment of the benefits of such programmes – and the costs of inaction and/or of alternative approaches to addressing unemployment. There are also key economic and macro-economic policy debates in this area; for example over the relationship between interest rates, inflation and unemployment.