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Livelihoods refers to quality job opportunities that, whether through formal employment or entrepreneurship, provide dignified income, marketable skills, and sustained security that can empower the poor to lift themselves out of poverty. Insecure livelihoods can take multiple forms (unemployment, informal status, or working poor) and affects every industry in poor and rich countries alike.

Size/Magnitude of Problem

Quality jobs, more than just quantity, are a core driver of development. Developing countries encouraging the creation of quality jobs (defined as higher productivity roles with regular earnings) are achieving faster economic growth. Countries with robust formal job markets have larger revenue streams (e.g. taxation) useful to reinforce other government programs.iii The global job landscape is changing rapidly due to globalization of supply chains, shifting demographics, urbanization, and population growth, which can contribute significantly to widening inequality and threaten the economic, political, and social stability of societies.iv According to estimates, 600 million jobs will be needed in the next 15 years to absorb the growing global workforce, mainly in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.v

  • Global unemployment was 197 million (5.8% unemployment rate) in 2015, holding relatively steady from 194 million (6.0% unemployment rate) in
  • Roughly 1.5 billion people work in the informal sector. These workers, more than 50% of the developing world’s workforce, lack secure work contracts, benefits, and social protections.vii
  • In 2015, an estimated 327 million workers were living in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) and 967 million in moderate or near poverty (between $1.90 and $5 per day)viii
Desired Equilibrium

Global markets provide equitable access to jobs that ensure a livable wage, safe working conditions, skill-building opportunities and a secure, sustainable income for all individuals. Small and medium enterprises are thrive in developing regions, feeding the development of regional human capital through high quality job opportunities and training. Thriving local markets also provide entrepreneurs with the support and opportunity to build livelihoods through healthy lending markets, supportive regulatory environments and robust social safety nets.

Ways Skoll social entrepreneurs are addressing the issue:
  • Providing skills training, education, and tools to increase employability and income-generating capacity (Building Markets, Digital Divide Data, Gawad Kalinga, International Development Enterprises-India, Kickstart, Nidan, One Acre Fund, Proximity Designs, Root Capital, Saude Crianca, Telapak)
  • Directly creating employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in areas of high need (Arzu, Barefoot College, Building Markets, Ciudad Saludable, Digital Divide Data, Friends-International, Fundacion Paraguaya, Living Goods, Gawad Kalinga, Saude Crianca)
  • Targeting corporate supply chains to ensure fair working conditions and higher wages (Fair Trade USA, Global Witness, GoodWeave, Verite)

i International Labor Organization (link)
ii International Labor Organization (link)
iii Financial Times (link)
iv International Labor Organization (link)
v World Bank (link)
vi International Labor Organization (link)
vii International Labor Organization (link)
viii International Labor Organization (link)

Critical Geographies
Adult and Youth Unemployment1

As defined by ILO (> 20% of total labor force)
Mauritania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Lesotho, Spain, South Africa, Swaziland, Serbia

Rates of Informal Employment2

As defined by ILO (> 70% of non-agricultural employment)
India, Mali, Pakistan, Tanzania, Bolivia, Honduras, Madagascar, Indonesia, Paraguay, The Philippines