Rural economy

The rural economy holds significant potential for creating decent and productive jobs and contributing to sustainable development and economic growth. It accounts for a significant share of employment and output in many developing countries but is widely characterized by severe decent work deficits and poverty, hosting nearly 80 per cent of the world’s poor.

The promotion of decent work in the rural economy is key to eradicating poverty and ensuring that the nutritional needs of a growing global population are met. This is recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is set to increase attention towards rural development and agriculture and food security in particular.

Rural development has been on the ILO’s agenda since its establishment in 1919. The third session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in 1921 set the ILO’s mandate for engagement in rural issues. Since then, the ILO has adopted over 30 international labour standards that are of direct relevance to agriculture and rural development, covering rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. In 2008, the ILC discussion on rural employment culminated in the adoption of a Resolution and Conclusions on promoting rural employment for poverty reduction, thereby setting a mandate for renewed ILO involvement in rural development issues. As a follow-up, in March 2011, the Governing Body adopted a strategy on promoting decent work for rural development.

Informed by these developments, Decent Work in the Rural Economy was identified as one of the areas for priority action in 2014-15 and was further embedded in the Organization’s work as one of ten Policy Outcomes in 2016-17 to continue providing high-value services to the ILO’s tripartite constituents.