Evaluation of the Public Works Programme


Public works form a key component of the current social protection framework in South Africa, constituting the only form of social support for the able-bodied working age population. Public works programmes are centrally placed in the conceptualisation of social policy space and ascribed considerable potential in terms of addressing the central challenges of unemployment and poverty. Despite this policy prominence, no evidence base is available to attest to the effectiveness of public works, as currently designed in South Africa, to meet these objectives.


Given the lack of evidence, this research focuses on the question of state intervention to promote employment and reduce poverty through public works, and encompasses three separate strands of work (dealt with in three sub-projects, discussed under the Activities tab). This work examines the nature and impact of public works programmes (PWPs) in Africa and, especially, South Africa.


For the first sub-project, primary data collection was undertaken to evaluate two public works programmes.

The second sub-project was the establishment of a database of public works programmes in East and Southern Africa, and a detailed review of four country programmes to examine how HIV/AIDS can be incorporated into PWP programmes.

The third sub-project was the analysis of survey findings and development of resources and expertise on PWP impact and incidence in Africa in collaboration with various national and international bodies, including the Centre for the Study of South African Social Policy (CASASP) and the University of Oxford.


This project has resulted in a large body of research in the form of publications, conference papers and presentations (listed in the Output and Publications tab). It has also collected primary data on two public works programmes in South Africa, and created a database of PWPs in East and Southern Africa



Conference papers

Unpublished papers