One of the forces driving rural transformation is the increase in the productivity of human labour, especially in agriculture, resulting from the deployment of knowledge and capital (mainly agricultural inputs and technology). If total productivity outstrips market demand, workers are laid off, which in turn often leads to changes in the number and size of farms. These are signs of rural transformation and are often associated with a greater degree of agricultural specialisation, i.e. a focus on specific crops, and shifting levels of self-sufficiency. 

There is close linkage between rural transformation and urban economic development. If there is dynamic development in cities, with their commerce, industry and service sectors, this creates positive incentives (pull factors) for rural-urban labour migration. The situation becomes more problematical if a rural labour surplus (a push factor for migration) is not matched by demand for labour in the formal economy. In these circumstances, the workers concerned often have no choice but to move into poverty-type casual work or employment in the informal economy.