Cities at work : employment promotion to fight urban poverty

Unprecedented urbanization in most developing countries is changing the face of poverty: increasingly, poverty is manifesting itself in cities. Millions of jobseekers, men and women, are resorting to the urban informal economy, where they earn just enough to survive, without any form of social security. Most cities cannot cope with this growth in population, basic infrastructure and services are underdeveloped and/or in a bad state of maintenance and often do not reach the poorest neighbourhoods. The urban poor are thus exposed to health hazards due to bad drainage, waste accumulation, lack of sanitary facilities and so on.

Yet, cities are also places of opportunity. Improvements in infrastructures, including shelter, and services can directly and indirectly improve the lives of large numbers of people. But such improvements can hardly be sustainable if not supported by the simultaneous promotion of decent employment opportunities. This publication argues that employment generation should be a top priority for urban planners, managers and decision-makers, and that deliberate policies are necessary to promote employment for the urban poor. It highlights the convergence between the Millennium Goal of poverty reduction, the ILO's Decent Work agenda, and the objective of sustainable development recognized at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. It is hoped that "Cities at Work" will contribute to the appreciation of the central role of employment in urban poverty reduction, and strengthen the capacities of national and local stakeholders to consistently build this into their policies and strategies.