Policy Support and Governance Gateway
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Decent Rural Employment

Over three quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Most depend on agriculture and their own labour to earn a living. However, rural employment opportunities are often precarious, informal, poorly remunerated and even hazardous.

Creating more and better rural employment opportunities.

Poverty and hunger cannot be eradicated without addressing the inadequacy of employment conditions and opportunities in rural areas. FAO works to generate decent farm and non-farm employment, including by supporting responsible investments in agriculture and food systems and inclusive policy dialogue. 

FAO influences global, regional and national processes on key issues such as youth employment, migration, child labour, green jobs, working conditions, and availability of data and evidence. FAO proactively supports governments in the formulation of decent rural employment policies, strategies and programmes, targeting vulnerable groups, particularly youth, women, migrants and children. To achieve this, FAO partners with other UN agencies, civil society, producer organizations, academia and the private sector.

Key policy messages

·        The world faces a global employment crisis and an urgency to create more and better jobs in rural areas. Revitalising rural economies and promoting decent rural employment and workforce development is essential to address the adverse drivers of migration, reduce inequality and end poverty and hunger.

·        Efforts should focus on the untapped potential for farm and non-farm employment in the agriculture sector and within food systems. The drivers for change should be identified on both the labour demand and supply side. Greater investments in agri-food value chain and private sector development are critical for rural job creation, alongside investments in skills development and social protection.

·        Creating more productive and gainful jobs for the rural youth is particularly urgent. Across developing regions, the working-age population is growing. This creates an enormous challenge, but also an opportunity to benefit from a huge demographic dividend. In Africa, for example, almost 200 million rural youth are expected to enter the labour market over the next 15 years.

·        Policies must ensure that work is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace, social protection for families, and freedom for people to express their concerns. They must also boost the income of rural families through skills development, technical support and access to inputs, markets and credit. The latter would also be critical to end the economic dependence on child labour, which still affects 112 million boys and girls only in agriculture.

·        The COVID-19 crisis has determined an unprecedented decline in economic activity and jobs all over the world, hitting hard agriculture and food systems’ workers.  After significant gains in the second half of 2020, the job recovery stalled during 2021, with a loss in terms of global hours worked equivalent to 125 million full-time jobs when compared to the pre-crisis benchmark (ILO). The negative impact has been disproportionately high for the most vulnerable workers, including youths, women, informal workers, migrants, and seasonal workers, which demands targeted interventions to guarantee inclusive recovery paths. Millions of children are pushed into labour as households struggle to cope with food insecurity, lost income, labour shortage due to limitation of movement, and deteriorating livelihoods.

·        In a context of increased concentration of global food supply chains, limited institutional capacities, inadequate rural investments, widespread informality, and related governance gaps, such as the including inadequate enforcement of international labour standards strongly limit the promotion of decent rural employment. As a leading institution of global agri-food governance, FAO supports member countries in advancing decent rural employment, strengthening of institutional and human capacities on this topic, and advocates for attention to employment issues and a decent work environment for all those involved in agrifood systems at all levels.

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