Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Employment Creating Urban Public Works Programmes: Outline of a Strategy

The principal concern of this paper is to examine the feasibility of using Public Works Programmes (PWPs) as a strategy for solving the problem of under-utilisation of labour in the urban sector. A number of hypotheses are implicit in this analysis and it would be appropriate to list them here. First, despite fairly large investment in family planning programmes, we do not expect any reduction in the rate of growth of population in most countries of the developing world in the foreseeable future; at any rate, not in the next two to three decades. Second, we do not expect any major structural changes in their economies—changes that would permit the solution of the problem by shifting the surplus labour from the rural to the urban sector. This implies that efforts to solve the problem would have to be made primarily in the rural areas. Third, recent developments in agricultural technology notwithstanding, it does not seem possible that the problem can be solved simply by reordering production relationships in the rural areas. Some investment in short term employment generating programmes seems necessary. Fourth, even when new production relationships in agriculture are supplemented with public works programmes, the problem of enemployment cannot be solved. This is because of the spill-over of the unemployed from the rural to the urban areas. Fifth, the urban sector is even less ready to tackle the problem of unemployment than the rural sector. In this sector, reordering of production relationships to accommodate more fully the relatively more abundant factor (labour) is considerably more difficult. Therefore, there is some need for investment in Urban Public Works Programmes (UPWPs). Finally, while it is feasible to use PWPs in the urban sector for solving the problem of unemployment, their effectiveness is limited to a few areas and they can provide benefit to only a few socio-economic groups.

Shahid Javed Burki

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