A Decade of Expanded Public Works Programme


epwp(P)Johannesburg, March 16, 2016 – This year marks over a decade of implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), government’s primary response to persistently high levels of unemployment, endemic poverty and deep social and economic inequality. The period of implementation has seen much in the way of creative innovation, but challenges remain. Given that the Programme is on the cusp of the third phase of implementation, this seems an apposite moment to take stock of successes and shortcomings.

The South African Cities Network, in collaboration with the National Department of Public Works (NDPW), today launched Our Expanded Public Works Programme: Reflections over a Decade, a book reflecting on the decade-long implementation of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in South Africa. EPWP is a key government initiative, which contributes to Governments Policy Priorities in terms of decent work and sustainable livelihoods. Though often criticized for its short-term orientation, the books presents contextual, empirical and critical perspectives on how the Programme nevertheless provides an important avenue for labour absorption and income transfers to poor households in the short to medium-term. It is also a deliberate attempt by the public sector bodies to use expenditure on goods and services to create work opportunities for the unemployed.

Our Expanded Public Works Programme: Reflections over a Decade explores the history and the genesis of the programme within a context of how and why the EPWP has been implemented. The book is also about the contribution of the largest cities in achieving EPWP progress. The cities have a record of programme innovations which have been a useful basis for learning and sharing in the EPWP. A few of these examples are highlighted in the volume, such as the Zibambele Programme in KwaZulu-Natal, which provides ongoing part-time work for households in the maintenance of rural roads, and Jozi@work which has seen the Johannesburg Metro partner with local communities to provide a range of neighbourhood services.

However, the cities have also inevitably manifested the identified EPWP challenges such as a relatively low labour intensity through the metros overall, and a precipitous decline in the number of training days offered in metro programmes over the course of time.

The final chapter of the book focusses on needed innovations in the Programme for Phase 3, proposing that it should have clear and simply stated objectives, provide regular predictable work, and have a strong and clear monitoring and evaluation framework so that the parameters for success can be set and measured. It is also emphasized that public employment programmes will be needed to address unemployment for the foreseeable future. However, successful implementation will require strong political support, the allocation of adequate budgets, and the presence of technical and institutional capacity.

The chapters in this book were originally commissioned as research papers by the SA Cities EPWP Reference Group over the period 2013 to 2015. The Group’s intention in converting (and supplementing) those papers to form this book was to make the research accessible to a wide audience, with a view to disseminating knowledge about the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), particularly as it relates to implementation in cities. The contributors to this book include politicians, officials, practitioners, researchers, and consultants who have considerable research and practical experience of the EPWP.

 DreamCatcher/South African Cities Network/PublicWorks

January 27, 2015: Expanded Public Works Program. Maria Constantinides:

June 14, 2014: EPWP: What happens after the work opportunity? CityPressOnline:

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