Our Expanded Public Works Programme: Reflections of Over a Decade

These papers represent a mix of context-setting, descriptive and analytical research, critical reviews, and some foresight about directions for our main public employment programme. The reflections, insights and collection of lessons contribute towards a base for forward and continued engagement with the various stakeholders in improving the performance of the EPWP. Most of the chapters in this book were originally commissioned as research papers by the SA Cities EPWP Reference Group, over the period 2013 to 2015. The Group’s intention in converting (and supplementing) those papers to form this book was to make the research accessible to a wide audience, with a view to disseminating knowledge about the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), particularly as it relates to implementation in cities. It is anticipated that this will help to improve the performance of the EPWP and public employment programmes more generally, and also that it will contribute to strengthening city development.


The primary target readership is EPWP practitioners, as well as those involved in urban policy formulation and urban development. However, a broader audience is likely to have an interest in how government’s Programme to alleviate joblessness has progressed – especially since very substantial public resources have been devoted to it.


The idea of public works as a strategy to alleviate poverty and create employment has a long history in South Africa. A brief look at this history will help to illuminate the evolution of the approach, and provide a context for understanding how and why the EPWP has been implemented.