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Assessing the Incidence of Public Works Programmes: Using Propensity Score Matching Techniques to Assess the Poverty Targeting of Employment in Two Public Works Programmes in South Africa

  • Anna McCord
  • Kate Wilkinson

This paper explores the socio-economic identity of Public Works Programme (PWP) participants in two programmes in South Africa, in order to establish the incidence of PWP participation, a question which is central to assessing the social protection impact of PWPs, but which is frequently omitted from programme analysis, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The paper focuses on an analysis of the demographic and socio-economic characteristics of PWP participants. As in many PWPs, no baseline data on participants in these programme were collected. Therefore, it is not possible to ascertain a priori who the beneficiaries of the programmes are, a situation which fundamentally challenges any attempt to or to assess incidence or the social protection impact of such an intervention. The research interrogates the assumption that the 'less eligibility criteria' central to the design of PWPs (the work requirement and low wages) will lead to participation of the poorest, thereby reducing the likelihood of inclusion errors, attempting first to ascertain who the participants in the programmes are. The question is explored using survey data gathered in 2003 on two case study PWPs implemented simultaneously in South Africa, which adopt different design and targeting approaches. Programme incidence is then considered in relationship to targeting and programme objectives, and the conclusion drawn that in order for PWPs to reach the poorest in a given community, reliance on self targeting through the work requirement and a low wage is not adequate, and explicit targeting measures are needed during participant selection.

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Paper provided by Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town in its series SALDRU Working Papers with number 31.

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Length: 47 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ldr:wpaper:31
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  1. Guarcelllo, Lorenzo & Mealli, Fabrizia & Rosati, Furio Camillo, 2003. "Household vulnerability and child labor : the effect of shocks, credit rationing and insurance," Social Protection Discussion Papers 29136, The World Bank.
  2. Mendola, Mariapia, 2007. "Agricultural technology adoption and poverty reduction: A propensity-score matching analysis for rural Bangladesh," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 372-393, June.
  3. David Coady & Margaret Grosh & John Hoddinott, 2004. "Targeting of Transfers in Developing Countries : Review of Lessons and Experience," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14902, December.
  4. Case, Anne & Deaton, Angus, 1998. "Large Cash Transfers to the Elderly in South Africa," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 108(450), pages 1330-61, September.
  5. Ingrid Woolard & Murray Leibbrandt, 1999. "Household Incomes, Poverty and Inequality in a Multivariate Framework," Working Papers 99031, University of Cape Town, Development Policy Research Unit.
  6. Pauw, Kalie, 2005. "A Profile of the Limpopo Province: Demographics, Poverty, Inequality, and Unemployment," Background Paper Series 15607, PROVIDE Project.
  7. Anna McCord, 2003. "An Overview of the Performance and Potential of Public Works Programmes in South Africa," SALDRU/CSSR Working Papers 049, Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, University of Cape Town.
  8. Hoddinott, John & Haddad, Lawrence, 1995. "Does Female Income Share Influence Household Expenditures? Evidence from Cote d'Ivoire," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 57(1), pages 77-96, February.
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