The Peer Review focused on the lessons learnt from the programme “Workplace with Stipend Emergency Public Works Programme” (WWS) which was introduced as a crisis measure by the Latvian public authorities in cooperation with the World Bank.
The Ministry of Welfare of the Republic of Latvia, in collaboration with the State Employment Service, hosted a Peer Review in Riga that brought together ministry officials and independent experts from twelve countries (Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Romania) as well as representatives from DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission and the World Bank.
The Workplace with Stipend Emergency Public Works Programme (WWS) was a short-term crisis measure, designed swiftly by Latvian Ministry of Welfare and the State Employment Agency (Latvian PES), in close collaboration with municipalities, and with the World Bank. The aim of the measure was two-fold: firstly, to retain long-term unemployed in the labour market, in order to help them maintain their professional skills and lower the risk of inactivity and social exclusion for them during a period of little or no job creation; and secondly, to strengthen the social safety net in order to reduce the impact and the severe social consequences of the economic crisis. The measure consisted of lower-qualified community jobs (with no specific qualifications required for participation) in municipalities. The jobs had no commercial aims and included tasks such as cleaning, improvement and maintenance of public infrastructure (parks and other public areas), small infrastructure building works (like trails, and benches, in national parks), clean-up of polluted areas (rivers, lakes, forests), work in parks and forests, municipal social services (e.g. assisting the elderly) including in NGOs (and in cooperation with NGOs), municipal institutions (excluding municipal and state enterprises) and a number of state institutions (border guards, social care centres and nature protection (national parks and similar).
An impact evaluation of the Programme was carried out with the World Bank technical assistance, and it confirmed effective targeting, high customer satisfaction and satisfactory administration and implementation, although the programmes scale was small relative to demand. It was found to have a positive effect on work motivation and subjective well-being of the unemployed participants, as well as on maintaining, and in some cases acquiring, work skills. The Programme appeared to mitigate the impact of income shocks and protected households from adopting harmful coping strategies. Local governments reported a positive impact on their budgets and on the social situation in general. The Programme has also contributed to some extent towards reducing unregistered employment.
The WWS Emergency Public Works Programme existed until the end of 2011, when it was replaced by a modified regular Temporary Public Works Programme.
The main conclusions of the Peer Review discussions are summarised as follows: