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Public works as a component of social protection in South Africa.pdf

Anna McCord | Basic Income Grant Coalition Conference
Reducing Inequality and Poverty – A BIG Solution
2 - 4 December 2003 | Ipelegeng Community Centre, Soweto


The South African economy is unable to deliver employment for a growing number of would-be workers, especially among the unskilled, and there is a need for state intervention to address this failure and its consequences. The dominant economic paradigm in South Africa places ideological constraints on the range of policy options under consideration, leading to the favouring of public works programmes over other solutions such as direct transfers (eg a basic income grant). Given this context, it is critical to assess the potential of public works, and their adequacy as an instrument for addressing the problems of poverty and unemployment. This article addresses the question of whether public works in general, and the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in particular, can offer a significant response to the South African employment crisis, and provides a critical review of the performance of public works in South Africa since 1996.

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