The chronically poor have a low labor-market attachment, to a large extend because of a lack of skills and experience. This is thus a vicious circle. One way to break this vicious circle is to offer them employment and hope this turns into a virtuous circle. This is what India implemented in 2005, a program that guarantees any rural adult 100 works days on public projects at minimum wage (thereby getting the richer people to self-select out). Does the theory work out in practice?
Puja Dutta, Rinku Murgai, Martin Ravallion and Dominique van de Walle report that it worked, sort of. The poorest families do indeed use the scheme most, but here remains unmet demand, thus the state was not able to fulfill its work guarantee. In fact, this rationing was most prevalent in the poorest Indian states, where the guarantee is the most needed, and where the resulting public works would also be of the highest benefit. And while the scheme seems to motivate more rural women to participate in the labor market, the rationing still privileges men. All in all, the program seems to roughly target the right people, although there is substantial scope for improvement. But we still need to wait for more data to see whether it works to alleviate chronic poverty.