Questions and answers on the “Cash for Work project”

The cash-for-work initiative, funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from UN Women and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is being implemented with the Government of Fiji to focus initially on market vendors in Rakiraki, one of the country’s worst affected districts, located halfway between the capital Suva and the western town of Nadi.

Press release | Suva, Fiji | 10 August 2012

Questions and Answers on the "Cash for Work Project" in Fiji

Mike Shone is a civil engineer and town planner by profession and a former senior ILO official, who worked previously with the CRISIS Unit in Geneva. He is currently an independent consultant who has been undertaking a number of separate assignments in the Asia-Pacific region for AUSAID and ILO including work on the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Sichuan earthquake. He has recently been in Fiji to review the Nadi Town Council/UNDP / ILO / UNWOMEN "cash for work project" in the West of Viti Levu which has been impacted by severe flooding.

Q: Can you outline what is the Cash for work programme in Fiji ?
A: Most CfW programmes internationally are essentially Social Protection programmes, whereby the most disaster affected communities are able to quickly earn cash under ‘decent work’ conditions to enable them to get back on their feet, in return for participating in disaster clean up and restoration activities. They are usually of limited duration and fill the need for local communities while longer term rehabilitation measures are put in place and resumption of employment is possible..

Q: When do CFW programmes usually start?
A: Provided that the immediate post crisis Needs Assessment surveys address loss of employment and small and micro-businesses, these programmes should be part and parcel of the immediate response activities. Unfortunately this was not the case in the West, and it is only more recently been realised and the current CfW programme is now actually part of the Early Recovery component of the overall response.

 Q: What are your impressions of the CFW programme?
A: The project is well organized by a dedicated small team and the project and has a focused team and iis worthy of further support provided that there is some basic design improvement incorporated into the work.

Q: What improvements do you suggest?
A: The project needs to move towards Task- based remuneration, paying participants on the basis of their outputs. There needs to me a greater emphasis on fairness and inclusiveness in the work groups which ideally should better integrate the i’taukai and Indo-Fijian workers. Screening for the most disadvantaged will also likely identify persons with disabilities who will need some assistance. For the next phase of the project based in Nadi, the Ministry of Labour has kindly agreed to brief all workers (expected to number 1000 and comprise mainly women) on OSH and MOL labour standards. All workers will also be provided with safety clothing for their specific activities, which will now focus more on future needs rather than immediate clean- up tasks.

Q: Are Cash for Work programmes sufficient in themselves to better prepare communities for mitigating the impact of natural disasters?
A: The short answer is NO, as CfW programmes are usually event driven and of limited duration and scope. What I feel is needed in Fiji and indeed elsewhere in the region is large annual “Public Works Programme (PWP) or Public Employment Programme (PEP) “ in which government and donors cost share a large scale programme as for example the AUSAID funded programme in East Timor, where by thousands of unskilled workers are engaged for a month or so each year on basic infrastructure maintenance, and disaster preparedness activities such as environmental protection, re-forestation, water-shed management and flood protection works, which will improve the resilience of communities to Climate Cchange. With the Fiji economy impacted by damage currently averaging USD80 million per year from natural disasters, such a programme is well justified and the The additional benefits of these programmes are that they also address at the same time poverty reductions and improvements in the the attainment of MDG’s. At the request of the Minister of Labour, Mr. Jone Usumate, I am currently working on the design of such a programme for Fiji, which will incorporate, the world best practises of similar on-going ILO programs in the Asia-pacific region.