HARARE (ILO News)– Rural economies in SADC countries have significant potential to create decent and productive employment for youth and to contribute to food security, economic growth and sustainable development so as to ensure that no one is left behind, participants of an ILO- supported tripartite sectoral workshop stated in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Effective and inclusive pro-employment policies should be promoted to stimulate structural transformation and enable rural economies to reach their full potential in SADC countries, they added in their final conclusions and recommendations.
The workshop was organized by the ILO in collaboration with SADC brought together representatives of governments, employers and workers from SADC countries to share knowledge and build capacity of tripartite constituents to effectively implement policies and programmes aimed at the promotion of decent work and productive employment for young women and men in rural areas.
Rural economies are potential engines for inclusive growth, decent work and food security, participants emphasised.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has one of the youngest populations in the world. Despite rapid urbanization a large share of youth still live in rural areas, deprived of effective infrastructure, quality services and amenities and subject to severe decent work deficits, governance gaps and informality.
At the same time, young women and men in SADC can be powerful drivers of agricultural transformation and economic diversification of rural economies.
Decent rural employment
Deliberations at the workshop evolved around three key themes: Unlocking the potential of the rural economy through employment policies and strategies for youth; Enhancing productivity and working conditions of rural youth in agriculture and off-farm activities and; Empowering women and youth to participate in rural labour markets.
Policies and decisions should be based on sound evidence and knowledge about the rural economy with its particular opportunities, potential and constraints for youth employment. Policy coherence across sectors and enhanced dialogue among the different stakeholders, both at national and local levels, are of paramount importance to effectively promote decent work in the rural economy.
Moreover, investments in rural infrastructure such as health, education, quality public and private services such as commerce and banking, transport and IT are needed in order to make rural areas attractive for young women and men to live and work.
The focus should not be limited to productive transformation in agriculture but also on diversification to non-farm activities, such as commerce, construction, mining and tourism. Productivity increases will boost agricultural outputs and incomes, prompt new activities, strengthen value chains and expand agro-industries.
A wide range of interventions were discussed to promote economic diversification which will create job opportunities including for youth and women.
The workshop concluded that the productivity increase must go hand in hand with addressing decent work deficits, such as low income, informality and safety and health hazards. In addition youth should be made aware about their rights at work while ensuring their participation and voice in social dialogue mechanisms.
The workshop agreed that in order for young women and men to productively participate in rural labour markets, policies and strategies are needed ranging from facilitating their meaningful engagement in decision-making processes, to provision of quality and relevant education and training to improving access to productive resources.
Participants acknowledged that while women play important roles in the rural economy as farmers, wage earners and entrepreneurs, they often bear the burden of unpaid and household work and have unequal access to education and training, markets and productive resources such as land, finance and technology. In order for women and youth to participate in rural labour markets, policies should be put in place to ensure gender equality and non-discrimination.
The Namibian presidency of SADC has announced that forthcoming 2018/2019 events and initiatives will be aligned with these conclusions and recommendations