..... Decent work

Decent work is increasingly recognized as an indispensable driver of sustainable development with the potential to lift households and communities out of poverty. Poverty is predominantly a rural phenomenon as rural areas are home to the majority of the world's poor.

ILO estimates that in developing and emerging countries, over 80 per cent of the poor live in rural areas.

1 In 2012, extreme poverty rates (defined as people living on less than $1.90 in purchasing power parity terms per day) were four times higher in rural areas than in urban areas. A large share of the rural poor still depend on low-productivity subsistence farming for their livelihoods. The poorest rural households lack access to productive assets and often rely on income from wage employment.

2 Of the 300-500 million wage workers in agriculture, many depend on jobs in the plantation sector. Some 59 per cent, or over 98 million child labourers (aged 5 to 17), are in rural areas, mostly in agriculture.3 Forced labour, too, is prevalent in agriculture.

4 Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, and ending extreme poverty everywhere, will thus 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 massive challenges affecting hundreds of millions of people worldwide.

Rural economy

Challenges facing rural economies are multifaceted and interwoven, and addressing them requires integrated, cross-sectoral, multi-stakeholder and context-specific interventions. Close cooperation and coordination between all government departments is essential to ensuring interventions result in the hoped for impact.


ILO's strategy for rural development comprises the following interrelated policy areas: The ILO is already providing support to a number of countries on all these issues – in Zimbabwe on improving rural women's employability and economic empowerment; in Kenya on enhancing access to financial services in rural areas; in Nepal and India on improving rural infrastructure through employment-intensive investment programmes; in rural areas of Paraguay, Ecuador and Bolivia on value chain development; and in Indonesia on the promotion of decent work for food security and sustainable rural development. Harnessing the potential of the rural economy through decent work is key to sustainable development. It is critical in fulfilling the SDGs' pledge to leave no one behind.