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Underemployment, low incomes and poor working conditions keep many people in low-income countries in poverty and make it difficult to access education, care and social safety nets. Sida is working to ensure that more people gain secure employment – especially women and young people.

Progress has been made

Decrease in unemployment

Until the outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic, world unemployment had been steadily declining for a decade, according to the International Labor Organization. Globally, however, the employment rate fell significantly in 2020 due to the pandemic but has gradually begun to recover in 2021.¹

Growing number of female entrepreneurs

A growing number of women are starting businesses. The Sub-Saharan Africa region has the highest proportion of female entrepreneurs (22 percent) worldwide, more than double the global average (10 percent).²

Increased respect for workers’ right

In recent decades, the global trade union movement has strengthened as the economy and the labour market become increasingly globalised. The World Bank now also demands that lending countries establish poverty strategies in their budget work. In that work, the union and other civil society organizations are having an influence.³

Challenges remain

Covid effect increases poverty

While growth is expected to recover in developing countries after the 2020 decline,4 the covid-19 pandemic will continue to have major negative effects on the economy and human livelihood.5 The number of people living in poverty is also expected to increase for the first time in 20 years.6

Vulnerable informal sector

It is estimated that two billion people worldwide work in the informal economy, where many lack job security and have low and insecure incomes.7 Informal workers are more greatly affected by poverty than those in formal jobs. 

Lack of gender equality

The gap between the proportion of working women and men is large (47 percent and 74 percent respectively) and in low-income and lower middle-income countries more women than men have jobs in the informal sector, where wages are lower and conditions worse. Globally, women also do three times as much unpaid work at home compared to men.8

Sida's work with employment

In Sida’s partner countries, many people work in the informal economy. Productivity and incomes are often low, and many people lack employment protection. This makes it difficult for people to improve their lives, send their children to school and access care, medicines and social security. That people have a fair employment is also important to prevent conflicts and maintain peace.

Employment and making a living

In low- and middle-income countries, one-fifth of working people have insufficient incomes, which keeps them in poverty.9 People who are unable to support themselves are less likely to improve their own and their families’ lives and do worse in a crisis or a conflict.

Support during covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic is already affecting the work of vulnerable people, especially women, young people and migrants. Sida is reorganizing its support to meet this crisis. In Mozambique, with the help of Sida’s support, the ILO has succeeded in preserving jobs and creating new jobs, especially in the informal economy. Similar efforts are under way in Albania.

The Sweden-ILO response to COVID-19, report

Making young people employable

In Liberia, youth unemployment is high. The Mercy Corps organisation works to reduce youth unemployment, support young entrepreneurs and make young people employable.

Mercy Corps website

Enables jobs outside the agricultural sector

In Rwanda, many families live on small farms that do not produce enough food to support them. In two of the country´s poorest districts, the World Vision organisation enables women and young people to obtain jobs outside the agriculture sector. In this way, more people are able to support themselves and send their children to school. At the same time, societies become more resilient to crises.

About the work in Rwanda on World Vision website

Working conditions

A large proportion of the world’s workers lack contracts, security and labor rights and can´t support themselves on their salary. This is especially true for workers in low- and middle-income countries.

Strenghtens workers in the textile industry

In many low-income countries, workers have little opportunity to influence their working conditions. In Bangladesh, the country’s government and the International Labor Organization (ILO) are working together to strengthen workers in the textile industry. The initiative makes it possible for more employees to organize in a trade union and thus influence their conditions.

About the work in Bangladesh on the ILO webpage

Social security systems

People without formal paid work are often excluded from social security systems, such as health insurance and pension systems. Many people also lack access to care and education, and have fewer resources for their children – which in turn makes it more difficult to rise up out of poverty.

Support to welfare system

Around half  of Zambia’s population lives in extreme poverty.10 Sida supports the UN Joint Programme on Social Protection, which aims to improve the country’s welfare system. Special support is provided for persons with disabilities and vulnerable families who live in poverty and are severely affected by drought.

About the programme in Zambia on the Social Protection Platform

Develops social security systems

In many African countries, over 8o percent of the population works in the informal sector.11 This means that many people have low wages and limited access to social security systems. Sida supports the development of social security systems in numerous countries, including Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Kenya, with the aim of making them more inclusive and equal. In several programmes, the most vulnerable people receive cash support. This enables more people to eat more nutritious food, maintain good health, and go to school.

About Social protection and cash transfers on the Unicef web page

Scope of Sida’s work with employment

In 2019, Sida’s support for interventions with employment as their main objective totalled SEK 1.2 billion in funding. Many others of Sida’s focus areas, such as agricultural development, private sector development, education and energy, also contribute to increasing employment.


Updated: April 28, 2021