Select your language

Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response

Food security - livelihoods standard 2: Income and employment

Where income generation and employment are feasible livelihood strategies, women and men have equal access to appropriate income-earning opportunities.

Key actions (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Key indicators (to be read in conjunction with the guidance notes)

Guidance notes

  1. Appropriateness of initiatives: A market analysis is fundamental to justify and define activities. Existing tools to understand markets and economic systems should be used (see markets section in References and further reading). There should be maximum use of local human resources in project design and the identification of appropriate activities. Alternatives for certain groups (such as pregnant women, persons with disabilities or older people) should be discussed within the targeted group. Where there are large numbers of displaced people (refugees or internally displaced persons), there should be consideration of opportunities to provide employment and skills to both displaced people and hosts. Locations for activities should consider the threat of attacks, risks to safety (such as mined areas) and environmentally unsuitable areas (e.g. land that is contaminated or polluted, prone to subsidence or flooding, or excessively steep) (see Protection principle 1Protection Principle 2 and Protection Principle 3).
  2. Income transfers to households with limited capacities to participate: While many households may be able to make use of employment and income-generation activities, the effect of disaster on some households may not allow them to take advantage of these opportunities or the period for receiving adequate returns may be too long for some. Safety-net measures such as unconditional cash and/or food transfers should be considered for such households, with a plan to either linkup with existing social protection systems or advocate for new safety nets where needed.
  3. Type of remuneration: Remuneration may be in cash or in food or a combination of these and should enable food-insecure households to meet their needs. Rather than payment for community works, remuneration may take the form of an incentive to help people to undertake tasks of direct benefit to themselves. People’s purchasing needs and the impact of giving either cash or food for other basic needs (such as school, access to health services, and social obligations) should be considered. The type and level of remuneration should be decided case-by-case, taking account of the factors above, the availability of cash and food and possible impact on local labour markets.
  4. Payments: There are no universally accepted guidelines for setting levels of remuneration, but where remuneration is in-kind and provided as an income transfer, the resale value (e.g of food) on local markets must be considered. The net gain in income to individuals through participation in programme activities should be greater than if they had spent their time on other activities. This applies to food- and cash-for-work activities and also credit, business start-ups, etc. Income-earning opportunities should enhance the range of income sources and not replace existing sources. Remuneration should not have a negative impact on local labour markets, e.g. by causing wage rate inflation, diverting labour from other activities or undermining essential public services.
  5. Risk in the work environment: A high-risk working environment should be avoided by practical procedures for minimising risk or treating injuries, e.g. briefings, protective clothing and first-aid kits, where necessary. This should include minimising the risk of HIV exposure. Practices for increasing safety in transit include securing safe access routes to work, ensuring routes are welllit, providing torches, using early warning systems (which may utilise bells, whistles, radios and other devices) and security norms, such as travelling in groups or avoiding travel after dark. Particular attention must be paid to women, girls and others at risk of sexual assault. Ensure that all participants are aware of emergency procedures and can access early warning systems (see Protection Principle 1 and Protection Principle 3).
  6. Risk of insecurity and diversion: Handing out resources in the form of food or cash for work (e.g. loans or payments for work done) introduces security concerns for both programme staff and the recipients (see Food security– food transfers standard 5, guidance note 6 and Food security – cash and voucher transfers standard 1, guidance note 4).
  7. Caring responsibilities and livelihoods: Participation in income-earning opportunities should not undermine childcare or other caring responsibilities as this could increase the risk of undernutrition and other health risks. Programmes may need to consider employing care-providers or providing care facilities. It may not be appropriate to introduce increased workloads into people’s lives, especially women. Programmes should not adversely affect access to other opportunities, such as other employment or education, or divert household resources from productive activities already in place. Participation in income generation should respect national laws for the minimum age for admission to employment, usually not less than the age of completion of compulsory schooling.
  8. Use of remuneration: Fair remuneration means that the income generated contributes a significant proportion of the resources necessary for food security. Household management of cash or food transfers (including intra-household distribution and end uses) must be understood, because the way they are distributed can either exacerbate or diffuse existing tensions, affecting the food security of household members differently. Responses that generate income and employment often have multiple food security objectives, including community-level resources that affect food security. For example, repairing roads may improve access to markets and access to healthcare, while repairing or constructing water-harvesting and irrigation systems may improve productivity.