The ways in which people can earn a living in developing countries are changing rapidly and as a result, many of the poorest people are being led into exploitative or unpredictable work.
One of the most significant influencing factors is the change in the rural economy. World Bank statistics show that 65% of working people in the world’s poorest communities earn their living from farming. Yet the nature of farming is changing. Advances in technology and equipment have a positive impact on productivity but they often mean fewer people are needed to work on the land. The majority of farmers work informally and with no worker rights, so they are vulnerable to sudden crises in their earning.
Many other traditional livelihoods, such as weaving and pottery, have become all but extinct due to the availability of mass production and competition from overseas markets. Climate change and natural disasters are driving people away from their home communities and where they can earn a living. Children are increasingly needing to work to contribute to the income of the family, which means they miss out on school.
The impact of these factors is rapid urbanisation as more and more people are forced to leave their homes and move to cities to find alternative ways to survive. For children this move is disruptive and frightening and in the chaos of cities, they can get separated from their families. The UN projects that 4.9 billion people will be urban dwellers by 2030 and that by 2050, the world’s urban population will have increased by over 70%. More people living in cities mean more opportunities for work, but it also means more opportunities for exploitation of people who lack diverse skills.
When people do not have employable skills, they are often forced to take on unskilled work in hazardous conditions or they are exploited by human traffickers. Many migrants to cities arrive only knowing their traditional trade. Women and children are particularly vulnerable and often end up being sexually exploited. To enable people to develop secure and safe ways to earn a living, it is important that they have opportunities to train in new skills.
Many people in developing countries subsist on microenterprises – for example small shops and food stalls operating outside homes, car washing services and mobile hairdressing. These micro businesses are important for the individuals and their immediate families, but there are opportunities to help entrepreneurs to develop their businesses through business skills training and access to finance.Small and medium size enterprises now account for half of all formal jobs around the world and with 1.2 billion people expected to join the workforce over the next decade, developing enterprises will be an essential part of providing secure work for more people.
Many of our projects have a component of supporting people to develop their earning potential in a safe and sustainable way. Each project is tailored to the cultural context and the needs of the local community, but there are some common activities across all our work in this area: