Kazakhstan’s Workfare Program: A Multidimensional Evaluation

Peter Howie, Indira Davletova, Indira Makhazhan

Research output: Working paper


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 a WP in Kazakhstan. We do so by executing a cost effectiveness analysis (CEA) using Ravallion’s (1999) framework for rapid appraisal of WPs in low- and middle-income countries and performing a case study analysis which investigates how the implementation process unfolded and what factors shaped it most. We find that the cost per unit of current benefit of Kazakhstan’s WP is significantly higher than both Ravallion’s (1999) value and Adato and Haddad’s (2001) average value. This high value is, in part, the result of benefit ‘leakage’ to the non-poor, high levels of informal labor, and means-testing applicants. The qualitative case study indicates that overly bureaucrat requirements of official residency and household asset documents, poor staff training because of high 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 for policy makers planning to implement their own WP.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherJournal of Social Policy
Publication statusSubmitted - Jul 16 2021


  • Workfare; cost-effectiveness analysis; implementation assessment; Kazakhstan


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