OECD report calls for bold action to secure livelihoods

Jobless growth, a rising youth population and resource scarcity are some of the trends that threaten to undo the progress made in recent decades in securing people’s ability to make a living, according to a new report by the OECD Development Center.

The report, “Securing livelihoods for all: Foresight for action,” develops five scenarios, or livelihood landscapes, for 2030, which show that the risk of falling back into extreme poverty remains high as a result of global trends.

Changes in the economy, technology, demography, environment and security could negatively impact livelihoods, defined as the ability to support oneself and thrive now and in the future, in the next decades. Already, about 80 percent of people in most developing countries feel they are struggling or even suffering in their daily lives, rather than thriving, the report finds.

“The outlook for livelihoods is fragile. Emerging global trends are creating a lot of uncertainty, and we need to find innovative ways to ensure resilience of livelihoods,” said Carl Dahlman, head of Global Development Research at the Development Center.

The threats to livelihoods include a rise in inequality, as a result of which the benefits of economic growth are not shared equally; jobless growth in both emerging and developing economies due to technological development and automation; and a growing youth population in Sub-Saharan Africa and in South Asia, where the respective labor forces are growing by 8 million and 12 million workers each year, putting a strain on the labor market.

The report also notes the persistent fragility of the financial system, environmental and resource challenges, such as droughts, and new security concerns in the form of cybercrime and terrorism, which come in addition to traditional forms of geopolitical conflicts, as other factors that could negatively affect people’s ability to support themselves.

Despite these threat scenarios, the report is optimistic that livelihoods can be secured if innovative initiatives are taken. This sentiment is shared in the developing world.

“In all middle- and low-income countries, people generally think that the future will be better than the past or the present. The greatest optimism is in the East Asia-Pacific region,” Mr. Dahlmann said.

To counter the challenges, the report suggests bold and innovative action at the global, national and local level. Greater coordination and cooperation at the global level is needed to set the right conditions for financial stability, international trade, migration, security and resource management.

At the national level, the report suggests that national governments are both enablers and a backstop during crises to ensure employment and education, and by promoting specific “livelihood portfolios made up of part-time work, paid training and unemployment benefits.”

Locally, initiatives to secure livelihoods could include virtual service marketplaces and community currencies “to shelter local communities from the turbulence of volatile global financial markets,” the report argues.