The role of productive employment in reducing poverty is by now widely recognised. But the experience of many developing countries seems to indicate that in recent years, the rate of employment growth has been inadequate vis-à-vis the growth of labour force and that the amount of employment generated as a result of given output growth has been declining.
Such a situation naturally calls for special efforts and programmes to create employment. Apart from the general inadequacy of employment growth, many developing countries face emergencies of various kinds (e.g. severe droughts, floods and other natural disasters, sharp seasonal decline in labour demand, prolonged armed conflicts leading to disruptions in the economies and the labour markets, severe economic downturns, etc.) that warrant interventions in the labour market in the form of employment creation programmes. Whatever the factor, the developing countries, by now, have a large accumulated experience in this area, especially in the creation of wage employment through the application of labour-based approaches in the construction of infrastructure. While some programmes of job creation are aimed purely at providing safety nets to the poor, there are others which are more integrated into the development programmes of relevant countries and are designed not only as safety nets.
IDS was contracted to write a paper on international experience with employment creation programmes (especially through the construction of infrastructure). The paper was a thematic desk review of relevant experience in the developing world and drew lessons for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) of India. Issues addressed in the paper were: agricultural production, the labour market, asset creation, sustainability of poverty reduction, and funding, design and implementation of schemes under the NREGP. The countries that were selected for the review included Argentina, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and South Africa.