In recent years, a variety of forces (economic, environmental, and social) have quickly given rise to “shared mobility,” a collective of entrepreneurs and consumers leveraging technology to share transportation resources, save money, and generate capital. Bikesharing services, such as BCycle, and business-to-consumer carsharing services, such as Zipcar, have become part of a sociodemographic trend that has pushed shared mobility from the fringe to the mainstream. The role of shared mobility in the broader landscape of urban mobility has become a frequent topic of discussion. Shared transportation modes—such as bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing, ridesourcing/transportation network companies (TNCs), and microtransit—are changing how people travel and are having a transformative effect on smart cities.
International Labor Office: How Could Cities Better Connect All Their Residents to Economic Opportunity?
Cities and towns are the engines of economic growth, and economic growth is intrinsically connected to labour. To fully realize their potential and achieve sustainable and equitable growth, cities and towns need to address many labour-related deficits across different sectors of the urban economy. Cities and towns will not be sustainable if the livelihoods of their inhabitants are not addressed. This phenomenon is especially true in the countries of the South where poverty is widespread, and is increasingly outpacing poverty in rural areas. Poverty as such is related to deficits in the four dimensions of decent work, a concept used by the International Labour Organization and others to identify the different aspects of labour: employment, workers’ rights, social protection and social dialogue.
The rapid growth of urban populations is outpacing employment opportunities. Different levels of government can play a role in addressing this challenge, but the role of the local government is particularly important. There is a great deal that local governments can do – directly and via forging public private partnerships – to promote employment creation: invest in the built environment and upgrading of infrastructural facilities like roads, drainage, water and energy facilities, sewerage systems, public buildings, and public transport and waste management & recycling establishments, among others. Such investment can stimulate local economies, result in immediate employment gains, and have long term impact on income, and living and working conditions. Local governments can also encourage job growth—and enforce better employment conditions—in other sectors in which they are not directly involved, by supporting private entrepreneurship, especially micro and small enterprises which are responsible for a significant proportion of urban employment. Investment in training in the different sectors of the urban economy and dealing with informality is also fundamental for employment creation.
2. Workers’ Rights
Many urban workers still face challenges related to their rights. Their inability to secure their rights has practical implications for their living and working conditions—and productivity. Examples of issues related to workers’ rights in urban areas include informality, casualisation, child labour, bonded labour and the situation of migrant workers.
To address workers’ rights, there are many possible lines of actions related to different groups of workers, based on various ILO conventions, recommendations, and instruments. There are instruments for each aspect of decent work, including workers’ rights, for which broader synergies can be explored. There is a burgeoning international movement on “the right to the city” which gives specific attention to community and consumers’ rights. Workers’ rights also fit within this movement, and should be promoted. To this end, there are embryonic examples of coalitions of urban workers (in Brazil for example) and there are specific initiatives related to the rights of urban citizens to a better environment supporting a green economy. Promotion of a better urban environment and promotion of the rights of urban workers can reinforce each other.
3. Social Protection
Social protection also needs to be addressed in order to ensure sustainable urban development. Inappropriate working and living conditions expose many urban workers to risk on a daily basis. To give one example, workers in major urban sectors such as construction, transport and waste management, among others, face serious occupational health and safety risks both due to the inadequacy of the existing occupational safety and health management systems and the impact of technological change. Also, a large number of urban workers are poor and live in neighbourhoods with inadequate sanitation and housing conditions. In addition, numerous urban workers do not have access to an adequate system of health care, pay for holidays, and protection against loss of pay when they are unable to work due to unemployment, illness, accidents or old age.
ILO instruments provide a sound basis for action, many of which specifically correspond to social protection. In addition to this, poor people have at times mobilized their own resources and organized their own risk protection through mutual health protection and community surveillance (support should be given to such initiatives). There are also examples of partnership practices involving local governments, the local private sector and communities.
4. Social Dialogue
The fourth dimension of decent work, social dialogue, is an important means for workers, employers and the government to jointly discuss solutions to the problems noted before. It is necessary to address the barriers which have hindered social dialogue in urban areas. There are some cases of good practice of urban multi-sectoral dialogue around the globe, including Marikina (Philippines), the municipal decent work programmes in Belo Horizonte, and a number of towns in the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo (Brazil).
While commendable research and action on different urban labour-related issues already exist, such research and action have nonetheless often focused on a limited number of specific aspects and need to be strengthened and scaled-up. In other words, more needs to be done to integrate the different aspects, given the number and magnitude of labour-related challenges that still exist in urban areas. There is a need for more research and practice.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
A study by the US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2008 found that the impact of routine weather events on the US economy equates annually to about 3.4% of the country’s GDP (about $485 billion). This excludes the impact of extreme weather events that cause damage and disruption – after all, even “ordinary” weather affects supply of and demand for many items, and the propensity of businesses and consumers to buy them. NCAR found that mining and agriculture are particularly sensitive to weather influences, with utilities and retail not far behind.
Many of these, disaster management included, are the focus of smart city innovations. Not surprisingly, therefore, as they seek to improve and optimize these systems, smart cities are beginning to understand the connection between weather and many of their goals. A number of vendors (for example, IBM, Schneider Electric, and others) now offer weather data-driven services focused specifically on smart city interests.
Urban Planning Today: Perception vs. Reality When the planning profession was still nascent in the 1950’s, well defined social needs and the desire to improve poor living conditions were the dominant basis for policy and regulation. By the time the 1970’s and 80’s...