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What is the EPWP?

The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is a national plan aimed at drawing a significant number of unemployed South Africans into productive work. This is done by re-orientating existing public budgets so that public goods and services are delivered labour intensively. By re-orientating public budgets in this way, temporary work opportunities are created for the unemployed to carry out socially useful activities.

 The emphasis of the EPWP is to expand the use of labour intensive methods in government funded project budgets to create more work opportunities and entrepreneurial activity.

Initiated in 2004, the Expanded Public Works Programme has not only exceeded its initial five year targets but the programme is currently in phase two (2009-2014).

Why was it started?

Unemployment and poverty are perhaps two of the biggest problems facing this country. The EPWP is one of a number of government initiatives aimed at bridging the gap between Gauteng's growing economy and the large numbers of unskilled and unemployed people who have not yet enjoyed the benefits of economic development.

 Government spends millions of rands every year building infrastructure and bringing services to various communities. EPWP calls on municipalities; provincial government departments and state owned enterprises to deliver these facilities and services using labour intensive methods.

How does it work?

In Gauteng, the Department of Infrastructure Development (DID) has the responsibility of co-ordinating the implementation of EPWP-aligned projects in the province. Such construction projects should not only be delivered labour intensively but the use of locally-based labour should also be prioritized wherever they are being implemented.

 Besides re-orientating its own budget, the DID is charged with providing leadership to municipalities and other provincial departments with "infrastructure-related" budgets so that more and more infrastructure is delivered labour intensively in the province.

 Apart from the infrastructure sector, labour intensive work opportunities have been identified in three other sectors of the Expanded Public Works Programme e.g. non-state sector; social and environment sectors.

Infrastructure Sector

The infrastructure sector in Gauteng is led by the Department of Infrastructure Development. As chief co-ordinator of the sector, DID is charged with leading the creation of labour intensive work opportunities through the implementation of infrastructure projects in the province.

Labour intensive construction methods involve the use of an appropriate mix of labour and machines, with a preference for labour where technically and economically feasible, without compromising the quality of the product. Infrastructure projects under the EPWP involve:

using labour initensive construction methods to provide work opportunities to local unemployed people providing training and skills development to those locally employed workers building cost-effective and quality assets

Although the DID is leading this sector, the following public bodies are expected to contribute to work opportunities created within infrastructure:

  • Department of Roads and Transport
  • Department of Local Government and Housing
  • Department of Education
  • Municipalities across the province

At the local government level, the focus is on: ensuring that those municipalities that are already exceeding their targets based on their MIG allocations keep performing and are able to continue growing their EPWP programmes through accessing the wage incentive

 Municipalities are not required to reprioritize, but should identify feasible labour intensive projects from their Intergrated Development Plans and execute these using EPWP guidelines.

Based on the sector's performance during phase one of the programme (2004-2008) – it is anticipated that the sector will continue to grow and remain the largest sector of the EPWP. A new wage incentive has been introduced to encourage municipalities to increase labour intensity in their works during phase two.

Non-state sector

This is a new sector introduced at the start of phase two of the Expanded Public Works Programme and it consists of two types of projects. The first is Institutional based projects where non-state actors, typically not-for-profit; faith-based and community based organizations would develop programmes that could create income for large numbers of individuals through socially constructive activities. The type of initiative would be determined by the non-state actor with the state providing partial funding for specified costs and wages.

 The second set is Area based projects involving local organizations so as to support initiatives that create employment, in ways that build public or community level gods and services. This approach offers considerable scope for work activities to be determined by the unique needs of a community and implemented at community level with partial funding from the state.

 Projects in this sector are structured in a way that provides participants with regular and predictable income through regular but part time work.

Social Sector

Implementation of EPWP under this sector includes projects that have scope for significant labour absorption i.e Early Childhood Development (ECD) plus Home and Community Based Care (HCBC).

Gauteng's target for 2006/7 was to increase the number of registered and subsidized ECD sites to 200. This would allow the programme to reach up to eight thousand children in the province.

 Care givers produced by this sector of EPWP are also playing a critical role in caring for those living with HIV/AIDS in the province. In order to increase the scale of the sector as desired and planned, a number of key issues had to be resolved.

These include:

Standardizing the employment framework for the sector which includes employment conditions, wages and progression in the sector once participants have improved their qualifications through the training provided through the EPWP, funding mechanisms for growing the sector, in particular how the sector would access the wage incentive or developing proposals for other complementary funding mechanisms, focus areas for expansion, which will rely on the development of implementation plans for some areas of employment creation already identified   

Environment Sector

The environment sector involves the employment of people to work on projects to improve their local environments.

This includes work aimed at memorializing local heritage and utilizing cultural heritage to create labour intensive work opportunities. It is anticipated that the sector will be able to grow faster from 2010 when it will be able to access the new wage incentive introduced as part of phase two of the EPWP.


EPWP is aimed at benefiting unskilled and unemployed people – especially women; young people; the disabled and the poor.

Ideally, an EPWP project should benefit:

50% women

40% youth

2% people living with disability

Gauteng Youth Service

In 2007, a decision was made by national government to use the EPWP to help extend the reach of the national youth service (NYS). The service itself was initiated in 2003 as a special presidential programme to address high levels of youth unemployment by creating opportunities for voluntary service and skills development for young people.

 Since the launch of the EPWP National Youth Service, Gauteng has recruited thousands of young people. Not only have these young people secured one year work opportunities in the department of infrastructure development, but they have also been placed on similar contracts with sister departments and other public bodies with whom partnerships have been secured.

 Although Gauteng recruits are placed in a variety of work environments, the bulk should receive artisan training in the building and construction trades so they can help government maintain public infrastructure. The potential to employ and mentor unemployed built environment graduates has also been identified as part of the EPWP National Youth Service.

Construction Contact Centers (CCC)

In an effort to facilitate SMME entry and support in the construction industry, Construction Contact Centers have been established in Gauteng. The centers offer a full range of assessment, advisory, certification, registration, training, financial, administration, communication and networking services – particularly for CIDB level 1 to 4 contractors.

 The CCC's objective of assisting small and emerging contractors from previously disadvantaged groups involves:

  • ​access to finance and credit​
  • access to work opportunities
  • opportunities for business facilitation and linkages between established construction industry players and upcoming entrepreneurs
  • skills development, training and mentorship

information and advice

The first center was launched in March 2006 at Simmonds Street in the Johannesburg CBD, with a second opened a month later at the Funda Community Center in Diepkloof, Soweto.

With CCC's now managed by Gauteng's EPWP (GEPWP), plans are underway to establish even more centers and satellites across the province.


For more information on EPWP in Gauteng (GEPWP) contact:

The EPWP Helpdesk

Corner Commissioner and Sauer Street

Corner House Building, 15th floor

Tel         : (011) 355 5000

Mobile : 083 415 1455

Email    : epwp@gpg.gov.za​