Designing Public Employment Programmes

Designing Public Employment Programmes for a sustainable recovery

Designing Public Employment Programmes

10 October–4 November 2022
The course is available in English, Français
Introduction to the course

Public Employment Programmes (PEPs) - or public works programmes - provide an adaptive policy instrument that can create employment, fill gaps in the provision of assets or services, complement social protection provisions and contribute to Active Labour Market Policies (ALMPs). They do so by providing a form of activation for participants when market conditions limit the alternatives. In this way, societies can prevent or mitigate many of the negative social and economic impacts of unemployment, not only for participants but also for wider society. The three key developmental outcomes of PEPs are: 1. Employment creation: PEPs are important tools for creating jobs and reducing the negative impacts of unemployment. Through the employment offered, they contribute to decent work, build the capabilities of participants, and can be addressed to women, youth and vulnerable groups such as refugees. 2. Social protection: Through the wages paid, they contribute to income security for the working age and their dependants and to achieving zero hunger. 3. Assets and services provision: Through the assets and services they deliver, PEPs can contribute to a wide range of SDGs. Which ones will depend on local priorities, but they can enhance access to development infrastructure, such as roads, water and sanitation, provide a vital tool for climate action, support communities in the implementation of climate change adaptation strategies, and contribute peace building. Innovation in the work undertaken in PEPs has seen the inclusion of more services, such as Early Childhood Development, care support in communities - and forms of work using digital technology, such as social surveys, which are attractive to youth. This course will discuss policy and design features of PEPs that take into account these challenges and will share current experiences on how these programme have been used to respond to the current crises. This will include experiences from both high, middle and low-income countries and will provide tools for enabling effective programme design, to achieve the multiple objectives.

Who attends this course?

The course is conceived for people who are concerned with or work in the fields of public investment, employment strategies, active labour market policies, social protection, public employment programmes and rural and urban development. It aims to reach a mixed audience of development actors, including senior government officials, representatives of social partners, programme managers and staff of research and education institutions. A gender-balanced participation is sought. It is therefore open to donors, policy makers; planners; senior and middle-level officials from national agencies and programmes concerned with public employment.

What will I learn?

The course will discuss how Public Employment Programmes (PEPs) can contribute to a sustainable recovery and will consist of six thematic areas:

  • Theme 1: Key concepts: Right to work, full employment, and employment guarantees
    This module will introduce the key concepts that underpin the rationale for Public Employment Programmes, in particular in times of crisis and increasing unemployment and underemployment.
    It will highlight their role in achieving full employment and providing a rights-based approach to employment. The module will also include discussions on PEPs and their role in fulfilling the social contract and how this may shift in a rapidly changing world of work.
  • Theme 2: Essential characteristics and design of PEPS
    In this module, the defining characteristics of PEPs will be discussed. Tools for the design and assessment of these programmes developed by the ILO and with other agencies will be introduced.
    It will also include a case study on how PEPs have been used to respond to the COVID crisis in South Africa.
  • Theme 3: PEPs creating employment in different sectors
    PEPs can implement different work activities including environmental, social and infrastructure works. “Green” activities include the use of nature-based solutions for hybrid infrastructure, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and ecosystem restoration.
    Social works tend to focus on the care economy. This module will focus on how PEPs can assist in both improving coverage and standards in the sector, while infrastructure can include a wide range of construction and maintenance activities. This module will include several country case studies.
  • Theme 4: PEPs and decent work
    PEPs often operate in difficult contexts with large decent work deficits and thus it is important that these programmes incorporate measures to ensure the safeguard of minimum standards and conditions of work.
    This module will provide guidance on amongst others wage setting, appropriate conditions of work, occupational health and safety, and measures to target vulnerable groups that face challenges accessing the labour market. This module will include several country case studies.
  • Theme 5: PEPs in relation to investment, employment and social policy
    PEPs generally have employment, social and investment related objectives. As such their alignment and integration with public investment, skills, social protection and active labour market policies are particular important.
    This module will delve into the areas of overlap and intersection and identify areas of both synergies and trade-offs.
  • Theme 6: Critical operational issues
    This module will be focused on key operational issues that can be particularly challenging in PEPs, including contracting workers and making payments, monitoring, reporting and evaluation of PEPs and inclusion of workers and communities in decision making and accountability.
    The module will also highlight how recent technologies such as mobile recruitment and reporting systems can be used to improve operations.

Learning will be facilitated and consolidated through a design exercise in which participants will collaborate in small groups to design PEPs for different contexts and regions.

Format and training methodology

This course is offered fully online on the ITCILO eCampus platform.

It is implemented in an asynchronous modality where participants can plan their learning at their own pace. Furthermore, the course also offers opportunities for live debate and discussions through online webinars, which provide a platform for engaging with experts and peers.

Each module combines online materials, one webinar and learning activities to help participants learn more effectively.

Modules are open on a weekly basis.

While participants are recommended to complete the activities of one module before starting the next one, access to modules is not conditional on that.

The course has been designed according to a learner-centred approach in order to better involve participants and keep them motivated. Different methods will be used to make it highly interactive and engaging.


An ITCILO Certificate of achievement will be awarded at the completion of all mandatory course activities.

ITCILO will offer a limited number of fellowships which may cover part of the fee. If eligible, early applicants will be given priority. Please enquire quickly!

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