UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Re-thinking livelihood security

Re-thinking livelihood security: Why addressing the democratic deficit in economic policy-making opens up new pathways to prosperity

livelihood security

20 January 2022

Authors: Saffron Woodcraft, Hannah Collins, Iona McArdle

Date: March 2021

Citizen-led research in east London identifies livelihood security as a critical determinant of prosperity for local communities (Moore and Woodcraft, 2019; Woodcraft and Anderson, 2019). Livelihood security depends on more than income and work. Households draw on a range of assets including: secure income and good quality work; affordable, secure and good quality housing; access to key public services (healthcare, education, care, transport, digital communication); and inclusion in the social and economic life of the city. These assets display complex inter-dependencies, intersect with class, race, gender and other identities in multiple ways, and cut across sectors and policy domains that are commonly siloed in economic decision-making.

In this paper, we conceptualise these assets as an ‘infrastructure’ for secure livelihoods to draw attention to their over-lapping nature and to demonstrate how knowledge based on lived experience generates fundamentally different ways of understanding the economy. We argue there is a democratic deficit in economic policy-making that must be addressed to better account for context-specific interactions between macro and micro-economic factors and generate more effective policy-making. Taking inclusive growth policies as a case in point, we explore how an expanded concept of ‘inclusion’ that incorporates participatory research, problem framing and policy development opens up new spaces for action on place-based prosperity.

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