International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG), Brasilia
Public works and employment programmes have long been considered a staple of social assistance. For the most part, though, they have been designed as short-term safety nets. While, in some cases, the focus has also been on reducing poverty or addressing structural unemployment challenges, their implementation has seldom been on a scale that would make a dent in structural poverty. The fact that large scale programmes such as India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), which was initiated prior to the recent economic crisis, could also be effective in responding speedily to and mitigating the effects of the crisis has elicited interest in such policies as a component of inclusive growth paths. In making the case for a longer-term development approach, the paper points out that such an approach would not only allow these programmes to act as shock absorbers without being too little, too late but would also enable the state to strengthen its capacities to provide support to livelihood strategies of the poor through addressing critical public goods and service deficits while creating jobs. In this context, the paper assesses the desirability and feasibility of adopting a universal or a partial Employment Guarantee (EG) to make such programmes a more stable complement to market-driven employment creation in situations where levels of poverty, in particular, working poverty, and underemployment are high. The paper also explores the complementarities and interactions with various social assistance and cash transfer programmes with a view to fostering a more comprehensive approach to social protection for the poor. The paper concludes with a section on implementation issues with a view to strengthening learning on how to plan, design and implement long-term and Employment Guarantee types of public employment programmes.