The State of the Expanded Public Works Programme in South African Cities 2017-18

The South African Cities Network, through its EPWP Reference Group, continues to champion the important role that  cities play in addressing socio-economic challenges through collaborative action with other partners. At the center of South Africa’s public employment programmes is the Expanded Public Works Programme, which has created just over 9.4 million jobs since 2004. Phase III has created 3.5 million jobs (Year 1 to Year 3). Inherent in the creation of these job opportunities by the EPWP have been challenges common to all Public Enterprise Programmes (PEPs). Deputy Minister of Public Works Jeremy Cronin calls a specific set of these challenges ‘the trilemma’, referring to the competition for resource allocation when working towards the completion of three equally important but conflicting objectives: providing income support to as many distressed households as possible, while equipping project participants to find gainful employment as exit outcomes, but still developing useful public assets and providing much-needed services to the community. The reality is that not all objectives can be achieved equally, and prioritising resource allocation to achieve one objective will negatively impact the other two. The EPWP has been widely recognised as an important vehicle to impact positively on the lives of the vulnerable and poor. It continues to be an important social protection programme that requires continued support from all spheres of government, NGOs, and the private sector in moving forward with addressing the complex structural unemployment problem in South Africa. Platforms such as the SACN EPWP Reference Group therefore play a key role in knowledge sharing and the identification of best practices regarding inclusive and productive development
in our cities.