Public Works: Starting work in your own community

Egypt has experienced a sharp rise of unemployment since the 2011 political transition, reaching 13.4% in early 2014, which is one of the highest levels in the past ten years, from an average of 8.9% in 2010. It is four times higher among women (24.5%) than among men and disproportionately affects the youth, which consists well over half (70.8%) of the unemployed.


  • UNDP created a total of 605,549 work/days in over 7 governorates throughout Egypt since 2012 through the public works project with financial support from the Government of Japan.
  • The project constructed essential community infrastructures including potable water networks, paved roads and public market places.
  • UNDP’s public works model was scaled up by the Social Fund for Development with additional funding from the World Bank and EU (creating an additional 569,275 workdays).
  • UNDP will continue the public work project in 2015 creating some 266,000 work/days in community infrastructure development and social services.

Egypt has been confronted with the challenge of rising unemployment and ineffective social protection mechanisms. Despite over a quarter of the public budget committed to social protection, national policies have been criticised for not adequately targeting the poor. In particular, the social insurance system has been challenged to support the increasing number of people without jobs or social protection.

To respond to this challenge, the United Nations Development (UNDP) designed an Innovative Public Works scheme in partnership with the Social Fund for Development (SFD) to provide jobs to the most marginalised people throughout the country as a form of social protection since 2012, with the generous financial support from the Government of Japan.

In the poorest governorates, where many people struggle with hard conditions and lack basic infrastructure and services such as health, a job meant a new life.

To ensure proper targeting of the poor and to eradicate poverty (MDG 1), UNDP supported the development of a poverty map that identified the poorest regions throughout Egypt up to the village levels, based on the biannually updated household income and expenditure survey.

Through this scheme, in 2014, a total of 163,012 work/days were created. The work included construction of community infrastructure such as potable water networks, paving of roads and development of public markets in the poor rural districts of Fayoum and Sohag governorates. In addition to the jobs created, the infrastructures constructed have contributed to boosting the local economy and providing basic services to people such as clean water in the marginalised regions.

“I was unemployed before this job, some days I was able to find a job, but for others, I would stay without a job. It was Godsend.  After the revolution, there weren’t any jobs in Upper Egypt but when I heard about the project, I applied”, said a worker in a public works cleaning project commenting on how public works provided him with a new opportunity.

Building on this model developed by UNDP, the SFD was subsequently able to scale up the cash-for-work scheme to other governorates, with considerable funding from the World Bank and the European Union. The additional projects draw on the same model of labour-intensive public works with area-based targeting using the poverty map.

The projects also benefited from UNDP’s capacity building support to SFD in the areas of gender mainstreaming and women empowerment, by increasing its engagement of women in the cash-for-work scheme. With additional funding, SFD was able to scale up UNDP’s public works project throughout the country, adding some 569,000 work/days (58% for women) and providing essential community infrastructures and social services to the poor communities.

The labour-intensive public works model has been recognised by the Egyptian government as one of UNDP’s and the international communities’ major contribution to the country’s economic stabilisation in a period of political and economic transition. UNDP continues its support to the innovative Public Works in 2015 by creating some 266,000 work/days in construction of community infrastructures and provision of social services in 7 governorates in Egypt.

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