Original Research

Employment creation through public works programmes and projects in South Africa: Experiences and potentials

W. D. Thwala
Acta Commercii | Vol 8, No 1 | a72 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ac.v8i1.72 | © 2008 W. D. Thwala | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 05 December 2008 | Published: 05 December 2008

About the author(s)

W. D. Thwala, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Purpose/objectives: The aim of this article is to look at the experiences, problems and the potential contribution of employment creation programmes in alleviating the unemployment problem in other African countries through the construction of public infrastructure through the use of labour-intensive methods. The article then describes the problems and experiences that have been encountered in South Africa in relation to employment creation through the construction of public infrastructure.

Problem investigated: In South Africa the levels of unemployment and poverty are extremely high and unemployment is one of South Africa's most pressing problems. At the same time there is a lack of capacity and skills at institutional, community and individual levels. Labour-intensive programmes generate more direct and indirect local employment opportunities and income by using locally available inputs (materials, simple tools and local labour) and thus creating a greater demand for local products and services than do high-technology programmes reliant on imported technology and equipment.

Design/Methodology/Approach: Drawing on research on labour-intensive, public works programmes and projects, the paper is mainly a literature review. From a theoretical perspective supported by experience elsewhere in Africa, there are reasons for considering that properly formulated employment creation programmes based on the use of labour-intensive methods could be established to construct and maintain the required physical infrastructure, thus creating employment, skills and institutional capacities. The article closes with some recommendations for the future programmes success.

Findings/Implications: The article attributes the failure of projects and programmes in South Africa to different factors which must be avoided in future in order for projects and programmes to be successful in South Africa. Investment in infrastructure has a huge potential to redress the high unemployment and poverty levels in South Africa and also to correct the skill shortages.

Originality/Value: This article challenges the project-based approach and recommends a programme-based approach which is long-term as to address the problem of unemployment and skills shortages in South Africa.

Conclusion: Public works programmes and projects in South Africa should change as the policy environment changes, from relief, emergency to a long-term structured employment-generation programme. The approach should link economic growth, employment and investment policies.


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doi: 10.1108/14626001211196451