Evaluating the Design and Implementation of Kazakhstan’s Workfare Program

Peter Howie, Indira Davletova, Indira Makhazhan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Workfare programs (WPs) in low- and middle-income countries have become a primary instrument to fight poverty associated with temporary economic shocks or to create a pathway out of chronic poverty. In this paper, we examine the design and implementation of a WP in Kazakhstan. We do so by executing a cost effectiveness analysis (CEA) and performing a case study analysis which investigates how the implementation process unfolded and what factors shaped it most. We find that the high cost per unit of current benefit of Kazakhstan’s WP is, in part, the result of benefit ‘leakage’ to the non-poor, high levels of informal labor, and means-testing applicants. Furthermore, overly bureaucrat requirements of official residency and household asset documents, poor staff training because of high staff turnover, staff not following standardized procedures because of low wages and corruption, and central government KPIs resulted in “creaming” of the best applicants and improper blending with other active labor market policies. Our findings provide important lessons, such as (1) formal restrictions on eligibility lead to expensive means-testing of applicants and (2) official residency and household asset documents lead to “creaming” of the best applicants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102301
JournalEvaluation and Program Planning
Publication statusPublished - May 16 2023


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