The Drawbacks of Development Work

This is a non-exhaustive list of some of the possible drawbacks you may experience from working in international development. Some of these points will not be true of all jobs or countries, and you may not even regard all of these points as drawbacks.

Child on a rubbish dump

Photo credit: art_es_anna

Job challenges

Low pay
Demand is high for development work, so jobs pay less than you would expect in your home country.
Long hours
Sometimes work can overrun the usual hours and it is often difficult to switch off, particularly if you become emotionally involved in your work
You may be involved in and directly influencing people’s lives, and so feelings often run high
Challenging environment
Your work may take you to unpleasant places
Knowing what must be done and getting it done are often very far apart


Culture shock
Sometimes the people and customs can really jar and underwhelm
Language barrier
the language barrier can cause a sense of isolation
often things taken for granted can prove impossible to achieve. Expect to wait
One of the banes of developing countries
Difficult climate
The heat and humidity can be oppressive
From disease, the effects of unstable governments and sometimes (but not always) increased crime
Lack of facilities
Many of the luxuries and comforts available at home may not be available here
Expatriate community
When small, the community can be stifling


Moving house
Can be tiring, especially when you have many possessions
Loss and damage
You will almost certainly lose possessions when moving through theft, forgetfulness and/or breakages
Loss of friendships
You will have to leave friends behind just when you get to know them well
Adjustment and readjustment
Wherever you move to, you will go through a period of adjustment, which can be difficult

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One Response to “The Drawbacks of Development Work”

  1. johnzeart Says:

    Some cite absence of credible leadership, accountability or results to be downsides – for others this is an advantage that comes w/ ‘flexibility’. The development endeavor will consistently pose the question of glass half full or half empty – how you choose to answer the question is up to you.

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