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close this bookBASIN - News No. 13 - February 1997 : The Great Habitat Debate (BASIN-GTZ-SKAT, 1997, 31 p.)
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View the documentTen good policies for better cities
View the documentJobs in cities
View the documentNational reports and national plans of action: a regional perspective

Jobs in cities

Thousands of villagers migrate every day into the cities of the third world. Many, if not all, come there in search of jobs. Any community - big or small - where work and income are not largely bound to the land is a town or "city". The lights of most cities are bright enough to attract people from hundreds of miles around. Add to the immigrants the young adults who have grown up in the city, and the need for jobs can become quite enormous. The cities of India alone need to create more than ten million jobs every year.

The evolution of the city's economy and environment, and the long term well-being of its citizens, depend on how many and how sustainable the livelihoods it generates is. This, in turn, depends on the access people have to living space, workplaces and the means to move between them.

To what extent are the jobs created in today's city genuine livelihoods? And to what extent do they fulfill the livelihood needs of all its people?

Cities are qualitatively different from rural settlements. Villages are characterised by rudimentary infrastructure and limited ability to create non-farm jobs, either in the industrial or service sectors. Even small cities and towns have a critical mass of economic activities and monetised interdependencies that can absorb a wide variety of actions and skills. Rapidly growing cities, like most cities in the third world, have special characteristics that open opportunities for the creation of large numbers of sustainable livelihoods.

Such cities offer a range of possibilities for remunerative work in many sectors. Small and medium industries need many skilled and semi-skilled workers and provide jobs that are remunerative and relatively secure. Micro-industries and other informal sector occupations provide even larger numbers of jobs that are particularly suitable for new immigrants.

The city offers far more opportunities for moving up the social ladder than does the traditional social system of the average village. Habitat-related activities provide the largest number of jobs in a growing city The housing and construction sector covers an entire process, including material production, building, infrastructure development, installation of utilities such as energy, water and waste management systems. These could give people many livelihoods, including recent migrants with limited skills on survival in the city. Transportation, domestic service and the informal food sector provide the rest.

More important, especially for encouraging social mobility, the construction sector creates jobs at many levels ranging from the most unskilled, manual ones to sophisticated managerial and entrepreneurial opportunities for supervisors and small contractors. It also creates fixed assets and infrastructure that provide the basis for further job creation. Perhaps no other sector exemplifies as clearly the range of factors that influence the quality of livelihoods, and therefore the quality of life, of people.

Technology choice and the adoption of certain design, standards and approaches determine the nature of jobs that will be available in any sector. The capital cost of creating a workplace impacts on the rate at which jobs can be generated in a given economy. The infrastructure and other support systems also critically determine the value and distribution of jobs in the city In particular, these factors together are responsible for the diversity of work opportunities available to people and strongly influences the access to jobs by women and other specific groups that are ordinarily marginalised in the formal economy.

The future of the city lies in the kinds of livelihoods of which it is composed. For the third world city, new kinds of livelihoods are urgently needed. For reasons of financial and physical resource limits, these cannot be borrowed unchanged from the North The way forward will require much creativity and innovation, both for the development of locally appropriate technologies and for the design of effective institutions. Undoubtedly, such a future will depend on how quickly we can create sustainable communities.

The question is, thus, no longer how can we create jobs in cities, but rather how can we create sustainable communities that can create adequate number of sustainable livelihoods to meet the needs of all their citizens. The answer will surely need wider recognition that many best interests of the city, from its own point of view, are better served by increasing investments in its hinterland instead of as at present, only on itself. Above all, it will require creation of a broad range of opportunities for developing enterprises, from the small to the large in communities that range from the very small to the very large.

To achieve this, we now need to design new mechanisms to devolve governance to the community level; to establish market-based instruments to liberate the entrepreneurial energies for people and adequate community oversight to ensure that both government and the business sector act in the best interest of the citizen. This in turn will need innovative institutions to provide support, both to local governments and to enterprises, in such crucial areas as technology, marketing, finance and overall management. Given the rapid transformations that will necessarily occur in the third world, a major effort will be needed for providing training support to help people adapt to ever-changing jobs. Fortunately, the city - and the sustainable community of the future - as the crucible for innovation and the birthplace of entrepreneurship, is in a better position than anyone else to solve its own problems provided it now makes the conscious decisions needed to build its capacity to do so.

Ashok Koshla Development Alternatives, India

Developments Alternatives gave the presentation below to advance the case for sustainable enterprises as they key to sustainable development during one of the BASlN-organised workshops.

Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development

Leads to more:

Needs Sustainable

- Equity

- Consumption Patterns

- Economic efficiency

- Production Systems

- Environmental quality

- Endogenous Choices

Sustainable Development


Necessary conditions:

The basic need that is most unmet, in the North and the South

- Meet basic needs of all

- Maintain resource base

Example: India

Today's Technologies and

300 million new jobs needed by year 2010

Production Systems

Agriculture can absorb no more than 25%

No good!

Therefore, must create 18 million new jobs off- farm each year, starting today

To create one workplace costs $30,000 to $500,000

Example: India

Basic Theses:

Each year, job creation by conventional routes

- Prime task: large scale creation of Sustainable

would cost at least 1 trillion dollars


- 10 times the GNP

- Sustainable Livelihoods need sustainable


- Sustainable Enterprises need essential support

- The independent sector gives best support

- To do this, the I.S. also needs support

Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainable Livelihoods

The Key to Sustainable Development

Jobs that

- yield a reasonable income

- give meaning to life

- care for the environment

Sustainable Livelihoods

Sustainable Livelihoods

Jobs that

Particularly for women, are the most effective route to

- produce goods and services for basic needs

- create purchasing power

- Empowerment

- The demographic transition

Profitable Enterprises for a

Sustainable Future

Designing the Sustainable Enterprise

Sustainable development

Towards the New Visions

Sustainable livelihoods

Sustainable enterprises

The Sustainable Enterprise

Industries in the South

Produces: green products and services

The special case of Sustainable

Operates: decentralised structures


Creates sustainable livelihoods

SMEs: backbone of production

Small Enterprises

in the South

Can be highly profitable but they must have

Example: India's SMEs have

access to support for

- 2 million units

- technology

- 20 million employees

- finance

- 70% of total industrial

- management/infrastructure

- 60% of exports

which are freely available to big business

Sustainable Enterprises

The Sustainable Enterprise


Generates: need-based products & services

Small - 1 to 100 employees

Conserves: natural resources

- $100 to $100 000 investment

Creates: broad-based purchasing power

Local - Skills/raw materials

- Markets/clients

Informal - Flexible

- Women and marginalised

Business: Threats & Opportunities

SMEs are typically


- dispersed

- located in populated areas

Markets stretched Resources

- highly polluting


Public accountability of SMEs

The handicaps of SMEs:

is limited:

- high costs of pollution prevention

Lack of - standards and regulations

- poor infrastructure and utilities

- enforcement machinery

- lack of finances

- effective trade associations

SMEs urgently need better


- information

- technology

Financial Managerial

- financing

- management skills

Delivering Products

Essential supports to the Enterprise

Technology Support

Management Support

Complete Technology Packages

- operational advice

- product design

- information

- production system specification

- marketing channels

- know-how and training

- communications

- maintenance and trouble-shooting

- infrastructure

- quality control specification

The T-F-M Shibboleths

Feasibility Reports; Facilitating access to credit

Technology: innovators see no "High Tech"

- fixed investment

Finance: Funders see high risk, low return

- working capital

Management: Government see no lobbies, roles

Evaluation and reporting; Certification/Guarantees

or many corporations see no profits or opportunities

Generating Support

Effective Support Systems

From Government, private sector, financiers and researchers


Small Enterprises

Need to demonstrate widely:

Do Not Exist

- Profitability

- Sustainability