EPWP a success story

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pretoria – President Jacob Zuma says the number of people in employment grew by approximately 60 percent between 1994 and 2013, thanks to the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), among other things.

“The number of people in employment grew by approximately 5.6 million between 1994 and 2013…This has also not been adequate to meet the objective of reducing unemployment substantially,” he said while releasing the 20 Year Review in Pretoria on Tuesday.

However, the President said, this growth is modest compared with other emerging economies. 

The Review indicates that the increase in the number of those employed has been offset by a larger increase in the number of people looking for work.

According to the National Development Plan, as quoted in the 20 Year Review, increased economic growth and diversification, coupled with improved education and skills development, are required in order to address South Africa’s structural unemployment problem - the Expanded Public Works Programme is one of many programmes contributing towards supporting employment generation.

The EPWP provides short-term job opportunities for the unemployed - to unskilled unemployed people in particular.  In addition, the aim of the EPWP is to provide training for participants.

According to the 20 Year Review, despite the programme exceeding initial job creation targets, due to the short nature of most EPWP projects, this training has generally been at a basic level.

In the first five years of the EPWP, between 2004 and 2009, a target of one million work opportunities was set in the infrastructure, environment, social and economic sectors. This target was exceeded, with a total of 1.6 million work opportunities being created by 2009.

Most EPWP work opportunities result from using more labour-intensive construction and maintenance methods in public infrastructure projects.

Further, up scaling the EPWP resulted in more than three million work opportunities being created between 2009 and the end of March 2013. This included the introduction of the Community Work Programme (CWP) in 2009, with funding for employment creation projects prioritised by communities.

“The EPWP is on track to achieve its target of 4.5 million work opportunities by 2014.

However, the employment created through the programme is still small compared with the number of unskilled unemployed people,” notes the 20 Year Review.

Nevertheless, public employment programmes are crucial income-supporting programmes. Both the EPWP and the CWP have been successful in targeting women, the youth and people with disabilities.

The Review said that in addition to providing income, the opportunity to work provides dignity and meaning in the lives of participants in public works programmes.

Generally, besides accessing income, public works programmes help reduce the negative effects of unemployment, which include social isolation, erosion of self-esteem, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as a loss of knowledge, skills and habits associated with having a job.

Research on the EPWP suggests that those that have participated, have a higher propensity to participate in savings clubs, to volunteer in community activities, to use their personal resources to enhance social services and community assets and to use media as a source of information.

EPWP beneficiaries are also more aware of their socio-economic rights. CWP workers emphasised that public employment work differs from employment on farms because it is work for the community.

The Review says they know it has an intrinsic value for the community, and they therefore do not resent the relatively low wages in the way they would if they were working for a private employer. – SAnews.gov.za