Rural economy

Promoting decent work in the Rural Economy

Eight out of ten of the world’s working poor live in rural areas where the lack of decent work opportunities is pervasive. Therefore, the challenge of ending poverty is fundamentally one of ending rural poverty. As highlighted in the conclusions on promoting rural employment for poverty reduction adopted by the International Labour Conference at its 97th Session (2008), decent work deficits in rural areas are typically many, diverse and inter-related. Common constraints to unleashing the potential of rural economies include: a lack of decent jobs and reliable incomes; low productivity; informality; weak enforcement of the rule of law; ineffective organization and participation of rural people in decision-making; under-investment in agriculture, non-farm rural employment and infrastructure; and limited or no access to social protection and services. Additional pressures result from climate change, conflict and natural resource depletion, including land and water scarcity.

Rural poverty has numerous root causes, ranging from climate change, natural resource degradation, conflict, weak institutions, poor agricultural conditions and trade-related challenges. Rural poverty is a driver of a host of social problems, including hunger and malnutrition, poor working conditions and exploitation of children.
The ILO’s approach to rural poverty is to increase the overall resilience of rural communities and their capacity to address such challenges through the Decent Work Agenda. This approach is based on three main goals: increasing the voice of rural people through organization of communities and promotion of rights, standards and social dialogue; promoting an employment based rural development model through diversified livelihoods, sustainable enterprises and better integration in value chains; and providing social protection floors which guarantee minimum income and access to basic services in rural economies which are often very vulnerable to external shocks.
A look, in photos, at what the ILO is doing to connect women in rural areas with decent work.

Policies & Tools

  1. Learning from Catalyst of Rural Transformation

    A review of 8 cases of "Catalyst" of rural transformation from different countries reminding us of the economic and development potential of rural areas.

  2. Rural-related Tools

    Descriptive leaflets on over 50 ready-to-use tools to stimulate employment and decent work in rural areas.


  1. E-Discussion

    Skills Development for Rural Employment

    6 - 22 June 2016

    On February 2016, the Global Skills for Employment Knowledge Sharing Platform began hosting Electronic-Discussions on skills development topics. The next E-Discussion will focus on “Skills Development for Rural Employment: Challenges and Solutions”. Feedback and inputs provided during the global dialogue will be summarized and circulated with the aim of providing useful insights on promoting and expanding training and employment opportunities in rural areas. The event will be co-moderated by ILO Senior Skills Specialists.

  1. Symposium

    Making agriculture insurance work

    ILO Library

    The Symposium will provide an opportunity for leaders from development organizations, governments, the academia and the private sector to discuss the landscape of agriculture insurance, examining models that can contribute to its sustainable delivery particularly in rural economies, and reviewing existing impact evidence and approaches to deliver agriculture insurance responsibly.

  2. Course

    Academy on Rural Development: Towards Decent Work in the Rural Economy

    ITC ILO, Turin, Italy, 12 - 23 October 2015

    Rural economies contribute significantly to employment and economic growth in many countries, however, are often characterized by significant decent work challenges. This Academy provides an opportunity to be exposed to a range of integrated approaches, tools and training packages with the objective to achieve decent work for all towards sustainable, inclusive and thriving rural economies.

  3. Instructional material

    Toolkit on Poverty Reduction through Tourism in Rural Areas

    The toolkit outlines the background to poverty reduction approaches and how the ILO is involved within the context of decent work and the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.

ILO strategy

  1. ILO Governing body, March 2011

    Unleashing rural development through productive employment and decent work: Building on 40 years of ILO work in rural areas