Skills for improved productivity, employment growth and development
206. The complex relationships between growth, productivity and employment in
agriculture, and between agriculture and other sectors, are explored in the report for the
general discussion on the promotion of rural employment for poverty reduction (ILO,
2008a). That report identifies a set of factors required to raise agricultural and off-farm
productivity, and thereby to increase incomes in rural areas. These requirements, which
are similar to the set of interrelated factors for productivity in general identified in
Chapter 1 of the present report, relate to infrastructure (especially roads, irrigation
systems, flood control and storage facilities), clarity with regard to land and water rights
(without which smallholders have little incentive or available collateral to invest in
increasing the productivity of their land), good governance (especially tax regimes and
efficient public services), institutions to provide timely information on prices and
markets, access to microfinance and effective means of learning about new technologies,
production techniques, products and markets.
207. It is this last factor of productivity that is the focus of this section: how to improve
access to quality and relevant skills training throughout rural areas in order to raise
productivity and incomes. Two main points are covered: (1) rural areas’ needs for better
quality learning and training linked to opportunities for better livelihoods and
employment; and (2) options to make training more widely available so that people in
rural areas are better able to take advantage of these opportunities.
4.1.1. Linking skills to rural productivity and employment growth
208. It is impossible to overstate the importance of extending basic education to boys
and girls so that they are able later to learn the skills necessary for working productively
in agriculture or to prepare themselves for alternative employment opportunities.
parallel imperative is to provide literacy and numeracy training along with skills training
for young people and adults, especially women, who did not have the opportunity to
learn at a younger age.
209. Lack of basic education also impacts on wider social objectives for stable and
democratic societies, gender equality and overall poverty reduction. As reported in
Chapter 2 of this report, UNESCO estimates the average literacy rate across least
developed countries at about 50 per cent, and even lower for women (43 per cent).
Hidden within these national averages is the huge divergence in literacy rates between
urban and rural areas. According to UNESCO country studies, in the most extreme cases
there is a 50 to 60 percentage point difference in literacy rates between urban men and
rural women (figure 4.1).
210. The sobering statistics on literacy motivate countries and UN agencies to join
together in the Education for All campaign, spearheaded by UNESCO, to enable
countries to meet MDG 2: universal primary education by 2015. The 2006 MDGs report
explained urban/rural disparities as being due to high rates of poverty in rural areas that
“limit educational opportunities because of demands for children’s labour, low levels of
parental education and lack of access to good quality schooling” (United Nations, 2006c,
See, for example, the impact of schooling on choice of non-farm jobs and income levels, household
investments in schooling and the effect on those children’s later access to non-farm jobs or urban employment in
the Philippines and Thailand (Otsuka and Yamano, 2006); the impact on rural wages and non-farm employment
from increased government spending on rural education in India (Shenggen et al., 1999); and the strong
relationship between the acquisition of literacy and numeracy and productivity gains in agriculture (Godfrey,
2003, pp. 44–45).