By R. Nastranis
Most of the 1.2 billion young women and men aged between 15 and 24 live in rural areas of developing countries. A new study shows that it’s possible to achieve decent and productive employment for them.
The study by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Labour Office (ILO) makes several recommendations about generating decent employment opportunities for them and making better use of their potential to contribute to rural growth and transformation:
— Explicitly target rural youth in development programmes
— Offer them training and other support, both as workers and as self-employed entrepreneurs
— Compensate for gender imbalances, and
— Use integrated approaches covering employment and enterprise development, working conditions, social protection and rights at work.
The study, Promoting decent and productive employment of young people in rural areas: A review of strategies and programmes, analysed the realities and challenges young rural women and men face in their working environment.
Through the lens of the four pillars of the United Nation’s Decent Work Agenda – creating jobs and enterprises, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection, and promoting social dialogue – the two agencies reviewed 23 programmes worldwide, including an in-depth review of five IFAD-supported projects in Egypt, Madagascar, Nepal, Nicaragua and Senegal.
The results of the study showed progress in Senegal and Madagascar for instance, where 100 per cent of the young people interviewed reported improvements in their employment situation, professional skills and income. In Nicaragua, 71 per cent of the young women and men noted that their employer showed greater awareness and respect for workers’ rights.
However, the results also highlighted the need to focus more on working conditions and social protection, labour rights and the social dialogue between workers and employers, as only marginal progress was generally achieved in these areas.
In the Programme for the Economic Development of the Dry Region (PRODESEC), Nicaragua, interviewed youth point to a number of improvements related to decent work. They find, in particular, that the project has had a significant impact on employment creation and enterprise development, as 76 percent indicate an improvement in their employment situation, 86 percent that their probability of finding employment has improved, and 91 percent that their professional skills are stronger. However, only 45 percent report income growth.
PRODESEC has also had some noticeable impact on working conditions and social protection, with 42 percent noting improvements in working hours, and 26 percent feeling that they enjoy better working conditions, although only 7 percent indicate improvements in their social security coverage.
PRODESEC also displays encouraging results on rights at work, as 48 percent of youth report improvements in their employment contract, and as much as 71 percent indicate that their employer now shows greater awareness of and respect for workers’ rights.
Nevertheless, the programme has had little impact on workers’ and employers’ organization and social dialogue, as only 8 percent experience increased trade union membership and improved collective bargaining.
Youth in the programme Promotion of Rural Entrepreneurship (PROMER), Senegal, note important achievements in a number of decent work dimensions. They indicate that the programme has boosted employment creation and enterprise development, with practically 100 percent reporting improvements in their employment situation, their probability of finding employment, income levels, and professional skills.
Interviewed youth feel that PROMER has also positively impacted their working conditions and social protection; with 100 percent feeling improvements in their working conditions, and 37 percent noting improved working hours, although only 1.3 percent report a better social security coverage.
Encouraging results are reported concerning rights at work as well, as 14 percent note improvements in their employment contracts, and as many as 73 percent indicate that employers demonstrated greater awareness and respect of workers’ rights. However, the programme has had minimal impact on workers’ and employers’ organization and social dialogue, with only 3 percent mentioning improvements in trade union membership and collective bargaining.
The study points to a number of important elements in rural development interventions that can strengthen impact on decent and productive work for youth. It says general design of rural development interventions should consider that:
— Projects including enterprise development have a greater impact on decent and productive employment of young people than “general” rural development projects;
— Promotion of decent and productive employment for young people is easier to attain if young men and women are an explicit target group;
— A two-pronged approach of working with both enterprises and youth is best suited for projects promoting decent and productive employment;
— Training of young women and men should aim both to strengthen their potential in the labour market and as self-employed entrepreneurs.
— Gender imbalances in access to resources, training and other empowering features need to be explicitly addressed and compensated;
— Integrated approaches including employment and enterprise development, as well as working conditions and social protection, rights at work, organization and social dialogue, are most effective to stimulate productive and attractive jobs for youth in rural areas;
— Including working conditions and social protection, rights at work, organization and social dialogue, all require using a rights-based approach;
— Both formal and informal activities need to be targeted, taking into account their specific opportunities and challenges;
— Relations with relevant national policies and programmes, as well as with other projects, can lead to synergies that strengthen, broaden and sustain impact on decent and productive work for youth.
The study recommends in particular:
Boosting employment creation and enterprise development calls for support to production based on local resources, packages of market demand-based training for youth (including entrepreneurship training) along with access to land, funding, materials and start-up kits, and technical/legal support for self-employment and local enterprise development.
Improving working conditions and social protection for youth needs much emphasis through awareness raising among youth and enterprise owners, inducing producers and entrepreneurs to abide by national legislation, but also to support training in both technical and legal aspects of occupational safety, make available tools, equipment and technologies to improve safety, ensure health services, as well as awareness programmes.
Strengthening rights at work includes prompting and assisting informal enterprises to acquire legal status, as well as awareness raising among youth and employers about workers’ rights, and developing labour inspection to monitor and advise on workers’ rights in rural enterprises.
Developing workers’ and employers’ organization and social dialogue requires encouraging young workers, self-employed and entrepreneurs to see the value and mutual benefit of these associations, and of dialogue among them.
“Labour unions and employers’ associations meanwhile, ought to work are to considerably strengthen their presence in rural areas as well as support their rural affiliates,” says the IFAD-ILO report.