Appraising Workfare Programs

Sep 1998
Workfare programs aim to reduce poverty by providing low-wage work to those who need it. They are often turned to in a crisis when there is no time for a rigorous evaluation. This paper offers some simple analytic tools for a rapid ex-ante appraisal of an existing workfare program. For pedagogic purposes, the two programs studied are stylized versions of a range of actual programs found in practice. One is for a middle-income country, the other a low-income country. The cost of a $1 gain to the poor is about $2.50 in both cases, though the same gain in current earnings would cost 50 percent to 100 percent more. The rapid appraisal also suggests how design changes might enhance the benefits to the poor.