Decent Rural Employment

Women and decent work

On average, women make up 40 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries, ranging from 20 percent in Latin America to 50 percent or more in parts of Africa and Asia. They generally work as subsistence farmers, paid or unpaid workers on family farms or as entrepreneurs running on- or off-farm enterprises. In addition, women provide the bulk of unpaid care and domestic work in rural areas, thereby supporting current and future generations of rural workers within their households and communities.

Despite their significant contribution to the agriculture sector, rural women typically find themselves in disadvantaged positions. Compared to their male counterparts, they tend to face more restricted access to productive resources and assets, financial services and social protection. Gender-biased social norms, laws and practices also limit women’s involvement in gainful work and their participation in workers’ and producers’ organizations, especially in organized labour institutions such as trade unions. Addressing this bias is a key component of sustainable development strategies. Increasing rural women’s access to decent employment opportunities is key to improving their productivity and earning power, which in turn raises family incomes and food security.

The role of FAO:

FAO aims to empower rural women through decent work in order to realize their untapped potential, which can bring social and economic benefits not only to women, but also to their families, communities and rural economies at large. In particular, FAO works to:

  • Develop greater knowledge on women’s contribution to the rural economy and on the impact of gender-sensitive rural employment interventions. For example, FAO has produced detailed country profiles on the gender inequalities in rural employment for countries such as Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania Mainland.
  • Support governments in the formulation and implementation of decent rural employment strategies that are responsive to gender issues. The joint FAO, IFAD, WFP and UN Women programme on "Accelerating progress towards the economic empowerment of rural women" is an example of FAO’s ongoing effort to promote decent work for rural women at country-level. 
  • Foster greater policy dialogue and coordination between key stakeholders to promote rural women’s empowerment. FAO works with governments, civil society and the private sector to identify feasible policy options that address gender inequalities in rural labour markets.