Structural Transformation Key to Realistic Development Agenda

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  • 2014•11•21     New York

    UN Photo/Kim Haughton

    UN Photo/Kim Haughton

    On 18 November 2014, the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) organized its 18th Annual Lecture at UN Headquarters in New York. Presented by Professor Emeritus C. Peter Timmer of Harvard University, the lecture focused on the topic of structural transformation, especially within the framework of the post-2015 development agenda.

    In the lecture Prof. Timmer argued that structural transformation — the process by which labour moves from low-productivity to high-productivity sectors — is the defining feature of modern economic growth. As such, a successful structural transformation is crucial for poor countries seeking a sustainable development path.

    According to Prof. Timmer, the key to success lies within a simultaneous transformation of the agricultural sector. In many developing countries agriculture employs more people than all other sectors combined. Productivity of agricultural workers increases as farm sizes grow, so it is important to shift people from working in agriculture and small farms towards more productive sectors. Policymakers need to ensure that this transformation takes place because people are drawn to other higher productivity jobs, rather than because they are pushed out of agriculture and into precarious, informal, low-productivity work.

    Prof. Timmer’s lecture provided many important lessons supporting the need for structural transformation and the modernization of agriculture in order to meet any post-2015 sustainable development goals. Further research on the topic is currently being undertaken in the UNU-WIDER research programme on Transformation, Inclusion, and Sustainability.

    See the related files tab to download Professor Timmer’s presentation slides.