Working for Water: A Baseline Study on the Impact of a South African Public Works Program in Improving the Quality of Life of Program Beneficiaries

  • Robin RichardsEmail author
Part of the Community Quality-of-Life Indicators book series (CQLI, volume 3)


The Working for Water Program is a national public works program established in 1995 with the aim of bringing the problem of alien invasive vegetation under control and to provide short-term employment and training to unemployed people, particularly in rural areas of South Africa. The program is run by the Department of Water Affairs and combines the principles of sustainable control of alien invasive vegetation with economic empowerment. More than 10 years have elapsed since the program was initiated and the Department of Water Affairs commissioned a scientific study to determine how the program has performed in improving the lives of workers who are part of it. A proportionally selected national representative survey sample of Working for Water Projects, covering a total of 1,005 respondents, selected from all the provinces in South Africa was selected. The research design included a sample of respondents not on the program (a control group) to assess the impact of the program by comparing a range of quality of life indices (objective and subjective) of workers on the program with people who were not on the program, but who were nevertheless living in the vicinity of the program. Working for Water projects were found to be meeting the goal of providing short-term poverty alleviation. Projects provide employment opportunities for people who do not have access to other formal work opportunities. Workers on the program had higher incomes than non-program respondents. The financial impact of the program was evident in the greater spending power and ability of program participants to save in comparison to non-program participants. With respect to subjective indicators of quality of life, the study suggests that subjective well-being was improved through improved living conditions as a result of working on the program and workers were more satisfied with life in general than a year before working on the program. The chapter highlights the importance of baseline studies that collect indicators of material living conditions as well as subjective indicators of QOL (or personal well-being). Such studies serve as a platform against which to track the progress of government development programs to improve the lives of beneficiaries, so that limited state resources are targeted in a cost-effective manner by tailoring program interventions to the actual needs of recipients.


Community Quality Global Life Satisfaction Contract Project Water Affair Social Grant 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank the Working for Water Program for permission to use this data for the article and conference presentation


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Policy StudiesJohannesburgSouth Africa

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