Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) in South Africa, and the International Labour Organization (ILO)

By | 28 September 2009

Since the mid-nineties, the Employment Intensive Investment Programme has been actively participating in all major programmes that are designed to positively contribute towards the country’s major challenges, i.e. unemployment, lack of infrastructure and services to the disadvantaged and lack of skills among the majority of the population EPWP, the national government’s national flagship programme, aimed at creating employment opportunities and skills development in the delivery of social and physical infrastructure and environmental protection.

The South African Government’s National Cabinet approved the conceptual framework of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) in November 2003. The then President H.E. Thabo Mbeki officially launched the EPWP in May 2004, in Giyani Limpopo Province.

The EPWP is aimed at:

  • Alleviating poverty through the use of Employment Intensive projects/programmes in the creation of employment coupled with skills development among the historically disadvantaged particularly women, youth and People with Disabilities.
  • EPWP’s National primary target is to create one million temporary work opportunities, coupled with training, over its first five years (2004- 2009).  Potential for work opportunities has been identified in the four sectors, namely, infrastructure, social, economic and environmental sectors. Of the people to be employed, at least 40% are to be women while 30% and 2% shall be youth and disabled respectively.

The following enacted legislative provisions give support to the Programme Mandates:

  • Division of Revenue Act (DORA) 2004 for PIG and MIG) Schedules 4, 5, 6 and 8 , which  inform how Implementing Bodies should implement EPWP, viz:
    • To adhere to the labour-intensive construction methods in terms of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) guidelines agreed between Department of Public Works, National Treasury and SALGA.
    • To create job opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme
  • Basic Conditions of Employment Act 1997, which incorporates the Code of Good Practice for Employment and Conditions of Works for Special Public Works Programme.

Through a memorandum of Understanding (MOU), eight (8) ILO Technical Advisers who are specialists in the Labour Intensive Technology, (LBT) are assigned to the programme providing technical assistance and advisory support on employment-intensive investment programmes, at national and provincial levels. They are involved in overall EPWP management and coordination activities in the eight provinces including the promotion of EPWP ideals. In particular, they have:

  • Assisted in the programme formulation and development of national logical framework. (One of the models of EPWP is an earlier successful ILO-supported (Gundo Lashu) labour-based project in Limpopo).
  • Assisted implementing agencies, particularly municipalities, in the planning, designing and monitoring EPWP infrastructure projects;
  • Provided valuable technical backstopping to various programme/project managers on the implementation of LIC projects;
  • Assisted in the preparation of proposals and business plans for various projects in the Department Public Works and Municipalities;
  • Reviewed and up-dated several EPWP management tools in consultation with National DPW;
  • Assisted in the evaluation and procurement of consultancy services;
  • Assisted in the preparation of regular (monthly, quarterly and annual) reports;
  • Produced EPWP Operational level Guideline document as well as a promotional video for sensitization and awareness creation. Production of other documents are under process; and
  • Providing management support to the implementation of the other non-infrastructure sector programmes (i.e. Environmental, Social, and Economic).

The above ILO technical assistance inputs have resulted in the achievement of the one million national employment target one year ahead of schedule in December 2008.

Prior to the above, the cooperation between South Africa and the ILO which followed reviews and evaluations of the implementation of Targeted Procurement aimed at documenting lessons learned and providing recommendations for its future implementation, and two evaluations of the Community-Based Public Works Programme (CBPWP) that resulted in the realignment of future programmes over the 1990’s, was the development of the Gundo Lashu (GL) programme.  This was launched in 2001 as a joint effort between the Limpopo Provincial Government, ILO and the Department for International Development (DFID) from the UK, with the aim of addressing two of the major provincial challenges, i.e. unemployment and poor road infrastructure. The GL was therefore designed to apply employment-intensive approaches for the improvement of rural roads networks. The GL programme trained a number of consultants and entrepreneurs, and created employment opportunities for thousands of people living in the project area. Targets for gender equity, youth participation and the involvement of disabled were set and met, for different groups and levels of participants. While providing skills upgrading to middle level workers (technical and supervisory staff), it also provided an opportunity to gain skills and an entry to the labour market for unskilled workers.

It is therefore, understandable why the current President, HE Jacob Gedleyihlekise Zuma  believes the achievement of the creation of 500,000 job opportunities by the end of 2009 is a very plausible possibility, of course keeping in mind the unpredictable effects of the global economic crisis and financial down turns.

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