Annual Conference on Decent Work and Sustainable Development along Rural-Urban Gradients


Date: Feb. 15, 2016 - Feb. 16, 2016

Organised by: The International Center for Development and Decent Work (ICDD), Germany & Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Guwahati Campus (Assam), India

Guwahati (Assam), India
15-16 February 2016

In recent years rapid urbanization processes combined with massive rural-to-urban migration led to large scale transformations of labour and land use. The strong dependence of cities on their surroundings in ecological terms (food provision, waste disposal and other ecosystem services), social aspects (labour, skills, and knowledge) and economic terms (flows of goods and services) has long been neglected. Questions arise about how poor people’s livelihoods are affected by spatial, ecological, agronomic, economic, and social transition processes along the gradients spanning from the city to its remote rural hinterland. The general themes to be discussed are:

Rural-urban transformation processes – matter fluxes and drivers of change: The rural-urban interface as an arena of exchange for goods, capital and services has for long been neglected by scientist and policy makers. Predominated has instead a unilateral “rural” or “urban” approach to solving problems of production and resource use efficiency. Given the society´s desire for ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural) which is particularly emphasized by the urban middle class, pressure on resources grows. In this context the rural-urban interface is increasingly perceived as a space where conflicts of interest and innovations in landuse, the use of value chain approaches and the opportunities for enhanced food security are negotiated. In the agricultural sciences we urgently need to better understand the drivers, challenges and opportunities of these conflicts using quantitative and qualitative approaches.

Livelihood and Rural-Urban Linkages: Expansion of livelihood options in the process of urbanization is establishing rural-urban linkages. Rural hinterlands of cities are becoming urban peripheries. In the process, rural people are also moving to town to sell goods and commodities such as fruits, vegetables, fish etc. and create markets. What impact does this transformation have on the livelihood and income generation of the people living in these hinterlands? How has outward expansion of cities led to rise in income and social insecurity? How does land ownership patterns in these peripheries undergone changes and what impact does it have on the livelihood?

Social Protection in Rural and Urban Areas: Rural areas are important as an informal form of social protection for urban workers. Rural subsistence production including the care labour of women subsidises the daily and intergenerational costs of waged labour largely concentrated in urban communities. How do fluctuations in the urban wage market affect the livelihoods of rural households? How can rural households' urban connections be taken into account when constructing policy for rural social protection? What impact do these “shared livelihood” strategies have to union policy and organizing strategies? How can women`s rights to productive resources in rural livelihoods be promoted? Whether and how do shared-livelihood strategies lead to more vulnerability in the lives of workers in the urban areas?

Organizing Work and Labour: The high share of informal (unprotected) workers affects the average income and productivity levels. How can work and labour be organised to enhance income and productivity both in the formal and informal sectors? How can different forms of intervention (government policies, union activities and self-organization) play a role in increasing informal workers access to social and labour rights? How can one achieve productive formalized employment with decent working conditions?

Overcoming Extractivism: Some governments have made use of income from resource exploitation (oil, mining, cash agriculture, forestry, water) for addressing various kinds of deprivation such poverty, unemployment, vulnerability, etc. Ecologically, however, the model is unsustainable because of its exploitation of limited resources. Economically, the volatility of the commodity prices makes the model highly prone to crises. Therefore, social improvements are highly fragile. How can the economy become more diversified? How  can resource utilisation, economic development and employment be more sustainable?

Access to Credit in Rural, Peri-Urban and Urban Areas: Credit stimulates growth because it bridges the time until investments bear  fruits. However, a large body of literature on agricultural lending has highlighted the challenges for providing especially smallholders with financial services. Will communication technology and the ever expanding cities change this situation? Does better access to credit actually translate into productive investments? To what extent does access to credit also dependent on collective efforts to strengthen smallholders’ and other micro-entrepreneurs’ position in product markets in rural, peri-urban and urban areas?

Rethinking Development Cooperation: Apparently easy solutions – more market access, more investments, more technology –  overlook complex social realities. A rise in productivity for one group may leave the working conditions of another group unaffected or  even lead to a deterioration in living standards for this group. How can development cooperation become ‘people-centered’ taking into  account people different positions, needs, and interests be taken into account – and that they have the right to articulate them and be heard?

We encourage potential contributors to include a gender-sensitive analysis whenever possible.

If you would like to present a paper in one of these areas, please send a brief abstract (300 words) by 15 November 2015 to Dr. Debdulal Saha / Dr. Rajdeep Singha at Please include the following information:

  • Name:
  • Country:
  • Organization:
  • Contact Details:


Further information:

[ Download Concept Note ]