voxdev.org (30.10.2023) Improving the payment infrastructure for India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme raised incomes — mostly through increases in non-programme earnings India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) is among the largest and most influential social programmes in the world, guaranteeing 100 days of paid work to 8% of the world’s population. The programme was designed as a vital lifeline to India’s poor, tasked with smoothing income in agricultural off seasons and providing “employment of last resort” in the face of unforeseen economic hardship. At the same time, the NREGS has faced both practical challenges and more fundamental critiques. Administration has not been easy: few workers report being able to access the promised 100 days per year of employment on demand, and wages are frequently delayed (The Hindu 2023). And critics have long contended that if it were well-implemented such a scheme would be problematic, as it could crowd out private-sector employment. This critique gets to the heart of the programme’s design, as the work requirement is the core mechanism in place to ensure that benefits reach only those who really need them. Other than this, and the restriction to rural areas, eligibility is not restricted in any way.
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