South Africa : Second Phase of EPWP launched

By Vivian Warby

Cape Town - The second phase of the government programme aimed at creating more jobs and training opportunities was launched at the weekend.

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is an initiative which uses public funds to boost job creation and skills development as an integral part of the fight against poverty.

In the first phase, between 2004 and 2008, it created one million job opportunities.

Deputy President Baleka Mbete said that as the EPWP moves from the first to the second phase, there was an urgent need for the programme to become bigger and better and therefore new targets had been set.

"The second phase of the EPWP has set a target of 4.5 million 100-day and skills acquisition opportunities," she explained.

In the second phase, the focus will shift from construction and road maintenance areas to the fields of home-based care and community health, two important areas for delivery of quality services, said Ms Mbete.

Provinces and municipalities will receive incentives to meet targets of labour intensive job creation and, in a first, civil society organisations are now also eligible to manage EPWP projects.

"To be eligible, provinces and municipalities need to meet the agreed minimum participation targets for women, youth and people with disabilities, and employment creation targets using their conditional infrastructure grants, as well as report on their contribution to the EPWP to the National Department of Public Works," said the Deputy President.

She said another new feature was that civil society could now also play its part in job creation.

"For the first time, government will fund or co-fund projects to be managed by non-governmental organisations. This innovation is important as it rallies all sectors of South Africa behind the aim halving unemployment by 2014 and the fight against poverty," said Ms Mbete.

She added that the programme has been extensively reviewed to counter the challenges experienced in the first phase. Although the First Phase of the EPWP was successful, the job opportunities offered were shorter than anticipated and as a result the impact not as effective.

The EPWP has therefore significantly adjusted the targets for job creation to creating 4.5 million jobs in the next five years and R5 billion has been allocated over the Medium Term Expenditure Framework to scale up the EPWP.

Minister of Public Works Geoff Doidge said that now, more than ever there was mounting pressure to create public works programmes and scale up existing ones to counter the effects of the global financial downturn.

He said globally and in South Africa the crisis was likely to see an increase in retrenchments in the private sector and slower growth in employment.

"For a developing country trying to grapple with high poverty and unemployment rates, a public works programme will always be necessary until the economy experiences an upward growth rate that no longer requires a short-term employment intervention," said Minister Doidge. - BuaNews