Poverty in emerging and developing countries is predominately a rural phenomenon – extreme poverty rates are about four times higher in rural areas than in urban ones.
A large share of the rural poor depends on low-productivity subsistence farming for their livelihoods. Furthermore, many of the poorest rural households lack access to productive assets and often rely on income from wage employment. Of the 300-500 million wage workers in agriculture, many depend on jobs in the plantation sector. Furthermore, some 59 per cent, or over 98 million child labourers, are in rural areas, mostly in agriculture. Forced labour, too, is prevalent in agriculture. The impact of the gender gap on agricultural productivity is revealing. If women in rural areas had the same access to productive resources as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million.
Rural poverty has numerous root causes, ranging from informality, ineffective law enforcement and compliance; the absence of an enabling environment for businesses;
underdeveloped production systems; natural resource degradation; poor infrastructure and limited access to services, including education, finance and health-care.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and ending extreme poverty everywhere, will require increased policy focus on rural development. Placing decent work in the rural economy high on national and international policy agendas is crucial to find sustainable, long-term solutions to the challenges affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide many of whom are young women and men living in developing countries.
The ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, as an integrated rights-based development strategy, supports tripartite constituents in their efforts to promote sustainable rural livelihoods.
The ILO approach is based on comparative advantage: its normative approach to development, its unique convening power to bring together the main actors and its mandate and expertise in the world of work. Its Decent Work Agenda offers many instruments, approaches and tools to support governments, employers and workers in their efforts to promote sustainable rural livelihoods. ILO strategy for rural development comprises the following interrelated policy areas:
- Supporting inclusive agricultural growth for improved livelihoods and food security;
- Promoting economic diversification and triggering productive transformation for rural employment;
- Promoting access to services, protection and employment-intensive investment;
- Ensuring sustainability and harnessing the benefits of natural resources;
- Increasing the voice of rural people through organization and the promotion of rights, standards and social dialogue.