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India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme: What Do We Really Know about the World’s Largest Workfare Program?

Sandip Sukhtankar

India Policy Forum, 2017, vol. 13, issue 1, 231-285

Abstract: In the ten years since the rollout of India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), there has been much research on its implementation and impact. This paper attempts to synthesize knowledge from the vast array of studies. I present four key takeaways. First, there is large heterogeneity in implementation, with consequences for not only where impact is seen, but also for interpreting what “the scheme” entails. Second, the “Guarantee” in the title is a misnomer, as access is rationed. Third, NREGS seems to have increased rural private sector wages, but has led to worse educational outcomes for older children, with net positive impacts on income and welfare that are debated. Fourth, key questions pertaining to overall impacts on rural productivity remain unanswered. Although serious research on these questions is badly needed, current standards for causal inference and the availability of data will remain high hurdles for those who wish to take on this challenge.

Keywords: NREGS; MGNREGA; NREGA; Workfare; India; Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme; Rural Wages (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: H53 I38 J08 J38 J45 J68 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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Handle: RePEc:nca:ncaerj:v:13:y:2017:i:2017-1:p:231-285