The Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) is a government strategic intervention intended to reduce poverty and provide income support through the creation of work opportunities for the poor and unemployed South Africans.
In South Africa, black Africans, women, youth and the unskilled are the most affected by the high unemployment rate faced by the country.
Women are also the most vulnerable to the forces of the labour market, especially women of colour who mainly hold low-skilled jobs.
This is confirmed by the Quarterly Labour Force Survey Quarter 1: 2021, released by StatsSA, which found that the unemployment rate for females was 34.0% against 31.4% of males.
The EPWP through its Infrastructure, Social, Environment & Culture, as well as Non-State sectors play a significant role in improving livelihoods among communities through the provision of work, training opportunities, income in exchange for work and assets and services delivered to poor and unemployed South Africans.
“The EPWP is therefore committed to its mandate of providing work opportunities to the most vulnerable and rigorously engaging and intervening in strategies aimed at drawing a significant number of people into productive work and strengthening women participation in the implementation of EPWP projects in order to promote social protection and improve livelihoods,” says Acting Deputy Director-General of the EPWP, Carmen-Joy Abrahams.
In the current financial year 2021/22 for the period 1 April – 30 June 2021, EPWP implementing bodies, i.e. government and its social partners have implemented 4 674 projects across all the nine provinces creating 472 646 work opportunities. Of the work opportunities created by the programme, 73% were created for women.
This achievement is a contribution towards the 5 million work opportunities to be created though the EPWP by 2024.
The participation target for women in the EPWP as one of the vulnerable groups has increased from 55% in the previous phase (EPWP Phase 3) to 60% in the current phase (EPWP Phase 4) of implementation of the Programme.
This increase in the target is significant in order to address some of the economic inequalities that exists between men and women.
A participant in the EPWP, Zanele Cosa, commended government for utilising the EPWP to provide economic opportunities to poor and unemployed women in her community of Emalahleni, in Mpumalanga.
Cosa is one of the women currently being trained by the Mpumalanga Regional Office of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and Emalahleni Local Municipality in road construction work.
She encouraged women in the EPWP to use the Programme to acquire skills they can use to gain employment or set up small businesses after exiting the Programme.
For Thembisile Msomi, being part of the EPWP’s Vuk’uphile Learnership Programme has changed her life for better.
“It is wonderful to see government providing women with skills to work in the construction sector,” she said.
Msomi is one of the learner contractors who recently received their statement of results after having participated in the Vuk’uphile Learnership Programme under the Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma (NDZ) Local Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal.
She encouraged women in the EPWP to use the Programme as a platform to learn and to economically empower themselves.