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The ILO Basic Needs


Explanations > Needs > The ILO Basic Needs

Food | Clothing | Housing | Education | Public transportation |  So what?


In 1976, the International Labor Organization (ILO) published a study that defined five basic human needs that people in developing countries have, and which may be addressed by those who seek to help people where these needs are not well met.


The basic requirement for life is food and water, and in areas where there has been drought, famine, war or other catastrophes where the food supply has been significantly reduced, people starve, possibly in large numbers. It is not surprising that many humanitarian efforts are directed first at providing food. With sustenance, people will die in a very short period.


While clothing is not as immediately critical as food, it is important particularly when temperatures become very low -- as they can even in hot desert areas. Of course also clothing serves modesty needs, avoiding the nakedness that can be so embarrassing.


There is a basic need for shelter, away from the elements and as protection against predators. Beyond this, a house becomes a home when people identify with it, with those who share the house and even with others in the vicinity. Housing together is the basis of community, where people can share and help one another.


Education is the basis of success and growth. While it is a right in some parts of the world, it is a sought-after privilege in other places. When you can teach children, they will then have the basic means for survival and improving their lot. Even if education is simply practical knowledge, it is better than having to learn by experience. Education for adults is also important and can be very liberating.

Public transportation

In developing countries, few people may have cars, or even simple transport such as bicycles. Public transport both helps people get to and from work and also creates a more mobile population who can move and visit other areas. Without public transport, many people are stuck almost as if they lived on an island. Cheap and frequent transportation sets them free.

So what?

If you work in human development, these are key areas to work on. If you work with people in developed nations, these may be concerns that they have without you knowing. This is a useful and basic list for any discussion about basic human needs.

See also

International Labor Organization (1976), Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: a One World Problem, Geneva


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