Opportunities Available for Expanded Public Works Programme Beyond COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has put huge pressure on world health systems and the global economy forcing countries to scramble for solutions to ease the disruptive effects and impacts of the disease.
While the pandemic has led to staggering job losses, technology has filled the gap somewhat, providing mechanisms and strategies to do work once performed by people. With this in mind, South Africa needs to look for new opportunities to create employment through initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).
Examining the history of the EPWP, the initiative can be traced back to the National Public Works Programme (NPWP) and Community Based Public Works Programme (CBPWP) where most of the work opportunities the EPWP created were driven mainly by infrastructure during the implementation of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP).
Since the Growth and Development Summit (GDS) of 2003, the EPWP has evolved and expanded by looking at creating opportunities in new areas such as the social, environment and cultural sectors as well as the economic sector which was later replaced by the non-state sector.
Today the world staggers under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic while the emergence of new technology takes its toll on employment and job creation, so EPWP needs to be reimagined beyond its current form to cater for the growing needs for new employment opportunities, particularly for young people. We must use the programme’s history to look for new opportunities post-COVID-19.
Opportunities are emerging for the EPWP in the implementation of the government’s economic recovery plan, including playing a role in the roll-out of Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure in the country as well as other mega capital projects.
The EPWP must be involved in the implementation and maintenance of the ICT infrastructure in the country. The 4th Industrial Revolution is a reality so we must ensure the programme is not left behind? Furthermore, a lot of work opportunities can be created in the “green jobs” space.
These days a considerable number of young people in the programme possess more than just primary school education - some are graduates! These are compelling reasons to re-look and remodel the programme to cater for more than just labourers but to include unemployed graduates, through targeted programmes designed for this cohort of young people to create employment opportunities and improve service delivery.
Lungisani Dladla is a PhD Candidate in the College of Law and Management Studies, School of Management, IT and Governance. His research is titled: The Role of Public Employment Programmes and their Contributions to Sustainable Livelihoods in Rural Communities. He is a senior manager in the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure.
Michael Mokoena is the EPWP’s PR and Communications Officer.
This article was first published in the EPWP Newsletter June 2021
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of KwaZulu-Natal.