Table of Contents

  • Human livelihoods face grave threats, from demographic change to financial crises to climate change. Yet, people around the world are better educated and more connected than ever, offering new opportunities to billions. This report is motivated by two daunting challenges. The first is to develop inclusive economies that allow the poorest and most vulnerable to access those opportunities. The second is to create secure livelihoods that allow individuals, families, and communities to not just survive but thrive in the face of these threats.

  • The world has made good progress in improving global livelihoods. More than two billion people emerged from extreme poverty over the last four decades, unskilled workers have seen real increases in their wages, life expectancy has improved, and literacy is more widespread than ever.

  • The world has made good progress in improving global livelihoods; witnessing more than two billion people emerge from extreme poverty over the last four decades, real increases in wages for unskilled workers, better life expectancy, greater gender equality and more widespread literacy. However, a number of daunting challenges threaten to undo this progress, particularly on the demographic and environmental fronts. This chapter provides an overview to the entire book. It outlines the status of livelihoods today and enumerates the main emerging trends which will affect livelihoods in the near future. It envisages a range of possible future scenarios for livelihoods, whose positive or negative outcomes depend on how several emerging challenges are dealt with. It concludes with a wealth of ideas for global, national and local action that hold significant promise for securing resilient and inclusive livelihoods for all.

  • Global progress in improving people’s livelihoods has been remarkable over the past two centuries, especially in reducing extreme poverty, improving health, increasing literacy and moving towards gender equality. This chapter outlines progress in the core dimensions of livelihoods – income, work and basic needs – and shows that although living conditions have improved on many fronts, progress is slowing down. It also asks how people feel about their own livelihoods – are they thriving, surviving or suffering, and how does this vary across regions? Thus, the chapter looks at livelihoods beyond simple monetary measures and includes the many other factors which influence people’s lives, from education, living conditions and health to people’s own sense of well-being. This approach reflects the need to seek resilient and inclusive livelihoods.

  • This chapter surveys emerging global trends in the economy, technology, demography, environment, security and governance that could have a significant impact on future livelihoods. Economic trends include the continuing economic weight of emerging and developing economies; plus the prospects of jobless economic growth, rising inequality, and the climbing costs of social protection. Technology offers both threat and opportunity: increasing automation of jobs could destabilise livelihoods, while innovation could bring greater access to education and global markets, and medical breakthroughs. Demographic shifts – such as too many old people in advanced and emerging economies and too many young people in developing countries – will all influence future livelihoods. Climate change and natural resource degradation are already affecting people, as are conflict, crime, terrorism and cybercrime. The chapter concludes with some of the governance weaknesses – such as resistance to change, lack of trust, and poor global and national co-ordination and delegation – which are hindering an adequate response to these emerging trends.

  • This chapter explores a range of possible futures for livelihoods. It uses a foresight approach to develop five alternative scenarios for the future which build on some of the trends outlined in Chapter 3. The five scenario storylines look forward to 2030: three are crisis scenarios, while two are more positive; all are possible based on current trends. Scenario 1 describes a world in which rapid automation and ageing populations in the developed world lead to dramatic jobless growth. Scenario 2 imagines the impact of widespread drought in those developing regions already struggling to employ a large share of young people. Scenario 3 envisages the impact on livelihoods of another major global financial crisis. Scenario 4 takes a more optimistic perspective to describe a world in which technology is a positive force for jobs, education and solutions to cope with environmental challenges. Scenario 5 explores a world in which jobless growth encourages people to value social well-being over economic growth and to develop creative ways of making a living. All the scenarios raise a wealth of policy options and possibilities for building inclusiveness and resilience into future livelihoods.

  • This final chapter outlines how many economic, social, environmental or technologydriven crises can be avoided – or their effects on livelihoods mitigated – through innovative actions which build more secure livelihoods. Building resilience and inclusion involves two main strands: prevention and adaptation. Global or multinational action will be needed for many of the preventive policies required to avert crises linked to the financial system, to climate change, to pandemics and many other challenges. On the other hand, policies at the national or local level are more appropriate for enhancing individuals’ adaptation capabilities. The chapter outlines a range of possible initiatives, and ends with a call for action for all relevant players – international, national, local – to move forward and prepare to ensure a better future for livelihoods.