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Appraising workfare programs

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  • Ravallion, Martin

Abstract

Workfare programs aim to reduce poverty by providing low-wage work for those who need it. They are often turned to in a crisis when there is too little time for a rigorous evaluation. They are also relatively complex programs, and difficult to evaluate. The author offers some simple analytical tools for rapidly appraising workfare programs. For pedagogic purposes, the two programs are stylized versions of a range of programs found in actual practice. One is for a middle-income country (in which unemployment has risen sharply in the wake of macroeconomic stabilization and reform), the other for a low-income country (hit by severe drought). The sole objective of both programs is to reduce poverty. By rough calculations, the cost of a $1 gain to the poor is $2.50 in both cases though the same gain in current earnings would cost 50 to 100 percent more. Benefits to the poor could be greatly enhanced by design changes -- for example, switching to more labor-intensive production methods for subprojects (in the middle-income country); enhancing the indirect benefits within poor communities from the assets created; or striving for greater cost recovery from the nonpoor.

Suggested Citation

  • Ravallion, Martin, 1998. "Appraising workfare programs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1955, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1955
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Datt, Gaurav & Ravallion, Martin, 1994. "Transfer Benefits from Public-Works Employment: Evidence for Rural India," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(427), pages 1346-1369, November.
    2. Martin Ravallion & Gaurav Datt, 1995. "Is Targeting Through a Work Requirement Efficient? Some Evidence for Rural India," Monash Economics Working Papers archive-41, Monash University, Department of Economics.
    3. Besley, T., 1988. "Workfare Vs. Welfare: Incentive Arguments For Work Requirements In Poverty Alleviation Programs," Papers 142, Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School - Public and International Affairs.
    4. Lipton, Michael & Ravallion, Martin, 1995. "Poverty and policy," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 41, pages 2551-2657 Elsevier.
    5. Ravallion, Martin, 1991. "Reaching the Rural Poor through Public Employment: Arguments, Evidence, and Lessons from South Asia," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 6(2), pages 153-175, July.
    6. K. Subbarao, 1997. "Public Works as an Anti-Poverty Program: An Overview of Cross-Country Experience," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 79(2), pages 678-683.
    7. Radhakrishna, R. & Subbarao, K., 1997. "India's Public Distribution System. A National and International Perspective," World Bank - Discussion Papers 380, World Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Maloney, William F., 2001. "Evaluating emergency programs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2728, The World Bank.
    2. World Bank, 2002. "Colombia : Social Safety Net Assessment," World Bank Other Operational Studies 15361, The World Bank.

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