Castel-Branco, Ruth

Contact Details


+27701091 8529


University of Witwatersrand

PhD Project Title

Rural Livelihoods, Social Welfare and Public Employment Programs in Mozambique

Abstract of PhD Thesis

In the last two decades there has been a proliferation of cash transfer programs in the Global South driven by a growing recognition among policy makers both at the national and international level that economic growth does not necessarily result in poverty reduction, that rising levels of inequality within and between states can stifle growth, that social insurance systems based on formal employment histories cannot provide adequate coverage particularly in the face of growing casualization, and that cash transfers work. Previously dismissed as undesirable, unaffordable and impossible to implement cash transfers have been repackaged as an effective and efficient policy instrument, capable of playing both a redistributive role and promoting economic growth.  

Ferguson (2015) argues that these cash transfer programmes are distinct from their northern counterparts. Their objective is not to replace lost income during a period of unemployment  but to ensure a minimum level of wellbeing throughout the life cycle. They are widely unconditional, marking a departure from the early programs introduced in Latin America. And they are delinked for recipient’s employment histories. Cash transfers, Ferguson (2015) concludes, represents a harbinger of an „emergent radical politics of redistribution“ based on new forms of political claim making around citizenship rather than employment. 

Until recently most cash transfer programs have been limited to labor constrained households. In a context where full employment no longer seems like a realistic possibiliy, the extension of social assistance to households who are not labour constrained is a relevant question. In Mozambique for instance, the ILO (2014) estimates that only 15% of Mozambique’s vulnerable population is currently eligible for social assistance because two thirds of poor and vulnerable households are not labor-constrained.  Public Employment Programs (PEPs) have become the most common form of social assistance for non-labor constrained households in Southern Africa (McCord 2012).  Flouted as a win-win solution, PEPs promise to provide income security for able-bodied adults, foster economic activity through increased consumption, strengthen physical infrastructure and provide the poor with the skills necessary to “graduate” out of poverty, and therefore out of the programs.  

Although there has been significant research on the effectiveness and efficiency of PEPs in sub-Saharan Africa-- most notably a comparative study conducted by McCord (2012)—the linkages between PEPs, social welfare and changing forms of livelihood strategies remains undertheorized. Through a comparative study of PEPs in two districts in the provinces of Nampula and Gaza in Mozambique,  this research seeks to explore these linkages. Specifically:

  1. How have livelihood strategies shifted in rural Mozambique in response to changes in the organization of (paid) work?
  2. How do program participants leverage PEPs in the context of shifting livelihood strategies?
  3. How do program participants perceive PEPs within the broader framework of social welfare?


Dr. Ben Scully 

Area of Interest

Social Protection, Labour, Public Employment Programmes, Worker Organizing

Educational Background


BA in Geography and African Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison, United States


Master of Development Studies, distinction cum laude, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Dissertation, "Legislating Worker Justice? The Formalization of Paid Domestic Work in Maputo, Mozambique", supervised by Professor Frances Lund.

Professional Experience


Project Coordinator for Social Protection in Mozambique, International Labour Organization. Maputo, Mozambique


Labour and Community Organizer, DC Jobs with Justice, Washington DC, USA


Outreach and Communications Coordinator, 50 Years is Enough, Washington DC, USA


  • 2014: Mozambique: travailleurs domestiques et mouvement syndical. État des résistances dans le Sud: Luttes syndicales. Frederic Thomas (ed). Vol. XXI – 2014, n°4. Bruxelles, CETRI, Syllepse. (Link)
  • 2013: A Regulamentação do Trabalho Domestico Assalariado na Cidade de Maputo. Desafios para Moçambique 2013. L. de Brito, C. N. Castel-Branco, S. Chichava and A. Francisco (eds). Maputo, IESE.
  • 2013:A Site of Struggle: Organized Labour and Domestic Worker Organizing in Mozambique. Global Labour Column, no 127. (Link)
  • 2012: The CDM in Africa Cannot Deliver the Money: why the Clean Development Mechanism won't save the planet from climate change, and how African civil society is resisting. Bond, P. EJOLT: Environmental Justice Organisations. Barcelona, Durban. 
Castel-Branco, R. The Africa Report: "The Dilemma of Growing Sugarcane in KwaZulu-Natal.". (Link)
  • 2012:The Africa Report: "Walmart's corporate Expansions and Unions.