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Is workfare cost-effective against poverty in a poor labor-surplus economy?

Author

Listed:
  • Murgai, Rinku
  • Ravallion, Martin
  • van de Walle, Dominique

Abstract

Workfare schemes impose work requirements on beneficiaries. This has seemed an attractive idea for self-targeting transfers to poor people. This incentive argument does not imply, however, that workfare is more cost-effective against poverty than even poorly-targeted options, given hidden costs of participation. In particular, even poor workfare participants in a labor-surplus economy can be expected to have some forgone income when they take up such a scheme. A survey-based method is used to assess the cost-effectiveness of India's Employment Guarantee Scheme in Bihar. Participants are found to have forgone earnings, although these fall well short of market wages on average. Factoring in these hidden costs, the paper finds that for the same budget, workfare has less impact on poverty than either a basic-income scheme (providing the same transfer to all) or uniform transfers based on the government's below-poverty-line ration cards. For workfare to dominate other options, it would have to work better in practice. Reforms would need to reduce the substantial unmet demand for work, close the gap between stipulated wages and wages received, and ensure that workfare is productive -- that the assets created are of value to poor people. Cost-effectiveness would need to be reassessed at the implied higher levels of funding.

Suggested Citation

  • Murgai, Rinku & Ravallion, Martin & van de Walle, Dominique, 2013. "Is workfare cost-effective against poverty in a poor labor-surplus economy?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6673, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:6673
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Jha, Raghbendra & Gaiha, Raghav & Pandey, Manoj K., 2012. "Net transfer benefits under India's rural employment guarantee scheme," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 296-311.
    3. Ravallion, Martin & Datt, Gaurav & Chaudhuri, Shubham, 1993. "Does Maharashtra's Employment Guarantee Scheme Guarantee Employment? Effects of the 1988 Wage Increase," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 41(2), pages 251-275, January.
    4. Jalan, Jyotsna & Ravallion, Martin, 2003. "Estimating the Benefit Incidence of an Antipoverty Program by Propensity-Score Matching," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 21(1), pages 19-30, January.
    5. Deininger, Klaus & Liu, Yanyan, 2013. "Welfare and poverty impacts of India's national rural employment guarantee scheme : evidence from Andhra Pradesh," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6543, The World Bank.
    6. James J. Heckman & Sergio Urzua & Edward Vytlacil, 2006. "Understanding Instrumental Variables in Models with Essential Heterogeneity," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(3), pages 389-432, August.
    7. Liu, Yanyan & Deininger, Klaus W., 2010. "Poverty Impacts of India's National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: Evidence from Andhra Pradesh," 2010 Annual Meeting, July 25-27, 2010, Denver, Colorado 62185, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    8. 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.
    9. Heckman, James J. & Robb, Richard Jr., 1985. "Alternative methods for evaluating the impact of interventions : An overview," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 30(1-2), pages 239-267.
    10. Martin Ravallion & Emanuela Galasso & Teodoro Lazo & Ernesto Philipp, 2005. "What Can Ex-Participants Reveal about a Program’s Impact?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 40(1).
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    Cited by:

    1. Do, Quy-Toan & Levchenko, Andrei A., 2017. "Trade policy and redistribution when preferences are non-homothetic," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 155(C), pages 92-95.
    2. World Bank, 2014. "More Jobs, Better Jobs : A Priority for Egypt," World Bank Other Operational Studies 20584, The World Bank.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rural Poverty Reduction; Labor Markets; Labor Policies; Banks&Banking Reform; Income;

    JEL classification:

    • I32 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Measurement and Analysis of Poverty
    • I38 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - Government Programs; Provision and Effects of Welfare Programs

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