Roundtable discussion on the integration of a public works programme in Iraq’s social protection landscape

A roundtable discussion organised by the Ministry of Planning and ILO focused on a new paper that outlines factors and challenges that need to be considered in designing and integrating a public works programme within the social protection landscape in Iraq, in line with the Government of Iraq’s objectives and informed by international best practices.

News | 19 December 2022
Baghdad, Iraq (ILO News) The Ministry of Planning and the International Labour Organization held a roundtable discussion in Baghdad on Monday (December 19) to discuss how a public works programme may fit within the social protection landscape in Iraq.

The discussion was based on a newly developed paper by the ILO and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, that examines how relevant such a programme is to the Government’s objectives of addressing high levels of unemployment particularly among youth and women, while supporting working age adults in receipt of social assistance to transition out of poverty and into decent employment with effective access to social security coverage.

The event brought together policymakers, researchers, local development thought leaders and practitioners to exchange ideas, knowledge, and experiences on the relevance of and potential for establishing a public employment programme in Iraq.

It forms part of a series of inclusive roundtable discussions to support the Government of Iraq in reforming its social protection system, through policy debates on key issues related to the future of social protection in Iraq, with the support of the European Union.

In Iraq, the creation of a public works programmes is considered a key priority for both economic reform and sustainable development, as outlined in the White Paper on Economic Reform adopted by the Government of Iraq in 2020, as well as the Iraq Vision for Sustainable Development 2030, as drafted in 2019 by the Ministry of Planning.

Public works programmes have the potential to reduce unemployment and underemployment, by directly creating employment opportunities and promote social protection by providing income support in the form of the wage. Work conducted under such programmes also aim to contribute to the public good, including by delivering infrastructure, providing social services, and promoting climate resilience. And the engagement of the private-sector as contractors and suppliers can also contribute to private-sector growth and formalisation where complementary support is provided.

The paper aims to highlight key factors to consider in the design and implementation of such a programme, including how it relates to existing social protection and employment programmes; the importance of embedding decent work principles and skills training to support participants into decent work; and factors to consider when identifying projects to be implemented as part of the programme.

The paper highlights key international good practices from multiple countries such as Austria, Greece, Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Jordan. It outlines key steps to be taken by various actors in Iraq in the development of such a programme, where the “Government of Iraq will be in the driving seat in designing and implementing the programme, and in leading the coordination with external actors involved in relevant sectors therein.” Key partners include the private sector, civil society actors and community based organisations, the donor community, and humanitarian and development partners, including UN agencies.

Key priority areas include initiating evidence generation, assessments and analyses to inform programme design and implementation; identifying sustainable sources of financing for the scheme; adopting key policies, and SOPs; and strengthening the capacities at national and sub-national levels to effectively implement the programme.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs said that based on the joint paper, which was developed in collaboration with the ILO, the ministry has prepared a preliminary study on the creation of 100,000 job opportunities through a public works programme, which will be implemented jointly with concerned ministries and partners. It will soon begin consultation with the ILO to put this scheme into practice.

The paper complements a UN position paper, led by the ILO, titled “Building Iraq’s Social Protection Floor Framework and Recommendations” to respond to opportunities to consolidate Iraq’s fragmented system of social assistance into a coherent Social Protection Floor.