Journal Article

From Workfare to Fair Work: The Contribution of Public Works and Other Labour-based Infrastructure Programmes to Poverty Alleviation, ILO Recovery and Reconstruction Dept

Published on 1 January 2002

Based on the assumption that poverty is closely correlated to unemployment, public works programmes (PWPs) are intended to alleviate poverty through providing work opportunities to economically active people who are either unemployed or underemployed. Public works programmes can contribute to poverty alleviation in several ways, the most direct routes being through transferring income (in cash or in kind), and by creating useful economic infrastructure. Indirect or ‘second round’ effects include income multipliers generated by spending of public works wages, impacts on labour markets, and enhanced employability of workers after the programme finishes.

This paper adopts a broad definition of employment programmes ‘to include all employment and/or labour intensive, publicworks type, programmes’. Yet, more importantly the paper draws a basic distinction between two types of publiclyfunded employment programmes. The first type, labourintensive employment programmes, maximise shortterm employment creation, usually as a response to crisis or as a selftargeting means of identifying the poor for income transfers. The second type, labourbased employment programmes focus as much attention on the objective of asset creation especially infrastructure creation or maintenance as on the objective of employment creation. In order to capture the distinction between these two types of public works programmes, the paper uses the terms ‘employmentbased safety nets’ (EBSN) to represent the former and ‘labourbased infrastructure programmes’ (LBIP) to represent the latter.


Stephen Devereux

Research Fellow

Publication details

Devereux, S
Issues in Employment and Poverty Discussion Paper, issue 5