Working on Fire
What we do
Comparative analysis between the findings of working on fire social impact studies and the report of the human sciences research council on the socio-economic, environmental and economic impact of selected expanded public works programmes within the department of environmental affairs
This Comparative Analysis sought to compare the findings on impact of the Working on Fire (WOF) work with other Expanded Public Works Programmes (EPWP) managed by the Department of Environment, Fisheries and Forestry (DEFF), as documented in the following reports:
- Working on Fire (WOF) 2013, 2016 and 2019/20 Social Impact Studies; and,
- A 2019 Report prepared by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) for the Department of Environmental Affairs1 entitled: A Socio-Economic, Environmental and Economic Impact Evaluation of selected EPWP within the Environmental Programmes Branch for the period 2012-2016.
However, this Comparative Analytical Study is limited to the socio-economic benefits and employment as the WOF Social Impact Studies excluded the Environmental and Economic Impact.
Internationally accepted criteria for evaluating an intervention include relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability (OECD, 1991; Roche, 1999). Hence this Executive
Summary was aligned to the HSRC’s approach of using the OECD key evaluation criteria to summarise the Report.
“In the context of severe poverty and the absence of other safety nets, the evidence suggests that the DEA EPWP programme is an important contribution to the wellbeing of individuals and households in poverty. Importantly, it targets youth, women and people with disabilities as key beneficiaries of the intervention. The absence of income safety nets for economically active unemployed adults exacerbates the vulnerability of the unemployed making this intervention important in delivering much-needed social protection. It also potentially contributes to social stability in society to a limited extent” (HSRC: 2019).
Similarly, evidence in the WOF-EPWP Social Impact Studies confirm that, except for gender, WOF exceeded EPWP targets. Importantly, there is evidence that WOF provides a safety net for participants which positively impacted the well-being of their families and other dependents. Moreover, qualitative data gathered in the 2012 and 2019-20 Social Impact Studies persuasively demonstrates that the WOF work opportunity was life changing for both participants and their families.
WOF thus complies with the relevance criteria.
The HRSC Study concluded that DEFF EPWP met the criteria of effectiveness. Thus, it concluded that the Sub-Programmes “exceeded the demographic targets with respect to youth and people with disability. They have achieved the target for women in general, although the percentage of younger women is below the 55% target. . .The number of days of EPWP exposure is not optimal, as the programme has not achieved its Full Time Equivalent targets throughout the review period, although the Work Opportunity targets have been met to a significant extent.”
WOF exceeded the target with respect to youth and people with disability. While it did not meet the EPWP target for women, given the peculiarities and nature of WOF’s work such as Fire Fighting historically being as male-dominated discipline, DEFF reduced WOF’s gender target to 33%. WOF exceeded the gender target in this Comparative Study while, at the time of the 2019/20 Study, women comprised 33% of Fire Fighter/EPWP participants.
As argued above and as confirmed in the HSRC Study, WOF exceeded the Full Time Equivalent targets throughout the review period. WOF is an effective programme in all respects.
The HSRC listed several findings on the impact of DEFF’s EPWP initiatives by bringing “to centre stage on the national agenda the importance of a focus on environmental protection and the need for commensurate investments.” Specific impacts of DEFF’s EPWP recognised include:
- “An effective social protection mechanism for many participating households. The interventions mitigate the harsh impacts of poverty and unemployment . . .;“
- “The EPWP wage transfer has definitely provided an important source of income to large numbers of households and has contributed to enhancing consumption spending.”
- Contributing “to reducing hunger and partially improved food security. This is confirmed with respect to the finding that most of the household income was spent on food.”
- “Participants with longer exposure to EPWP perceive their standard of living to be higher than those households exposed for shorter durations.”
- “The programme has contributed to gender empowerment, with women who are earning reporting a new sense of agency and control over their lives.”
Given the above, the WOF programme meets the impact criteria.
Overall, the DEFF EPWP had limitations in respect of the sustainability criteria. As such, the HRSC Study concluded that “exits from the EPWP programme had the immediate and direct effect of decreased gross household income, with an increase in the number of households without any income and a substantial drop in the households earning between R 2001 and R 2500 per month. . . There is limited evidence of enhanced labour market access arising from participation in the programme.”
WOF offers EPWP participants two-year contracts which is typically extended indefinitely based on performance and compliance with WOF requirements such as specific physical fitness standards. Hence, for example, the 2019/20 sample included participants who had been with the WOF between 12-15 years. This suggests that the lack of sustainability, which participants in other EPWP sub-programmes are exposed to, does not apply to WOF.
The 2019-20 Study sample included former Fire Fighters, or WOF Alumni. 82% reported that they started a new job immediately after leaving WOF and 72% of Alumni reported that their WOF training and experience was taken into account in the positions they currently occupy. The fact that WOF and their Alumni continue to have a relationship is significant. Notwithstanding this encouraging data, like the HSRC Study, the WOF 2019-20 Study recommended that WOF should build on its advantage in respect of its ongoing interest in and support of its Alumni, to strengthen its exit programme.
WOF faces a fundamental sustainability threat. WOF’s current 7-year contract with DEFF ends in March 2021. At the time of the Comparative Study, the bid for the national Fire Fighting service had not been issued and there is no guarantee that WOF would be successful
Nonetheless, WOF complies with sustainability criteria.
From the evidence supporting the above evaluation it is confidently concluded that WOF complied with the criteria of relevance, effectiveness, impact and sustainability.
APPROACH TO THE REPORT
This Report is divided into the four chapters:
Introduction, which describes the background and purpose of the Study
Project Scope, Design and Methodology, which describes the
The bulk of the report, covers a Comparative Analysis between common, significant indicators of socio-economic benefits and concludes with a summary of key similarities and differences, as well as other salient observations in each area, namely:
- RESEARCH OBJECTIVES AND QUESTIONS
- DESIGN, METHODOLOGY AND SAMPLING
- DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILES OF RESPONDENTS
- EMPLOYMENT AND FINANCIAL STATUS
- FOOD SECURITY
- CARE OF CHILDREN AND DEPENDENTS
- TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT
- CHANGES IN RELATIONSHIPS
- PERCEPTIONS ON EMPLOYABILITY
- CHAPTER 4: CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS AND PROPOSAL
Particular attention is drawn to Chapter 4, Concluding Observations and Proposals on the Comparative Analysis.
I trust that WOF derives the expected value from this Report.
The opportunity to conduct the 2020 Comparative Analysis Study, is appreciated.