Sustainable Development Goals: SDG #8 Decent Work for All
By Shani Asokan
Ceylon Today Features
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 goals that were agreed upon by all United Nations (UN) Member States at the 2015 UN Sustainable Development Summit as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Sustainable Development Goal 8 is to promote and ensure sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and full, productive and decent work for all. Economic growth should be beneficial to the whole planet. Hence, it is essential that financial progress creates decent and fulfilling while protecting the environment from further harm. Labour rights must be protected and modern slavery and child labour must be abolished. Job creation must be promoted with expanded access to banking and financial services to ensure that everybody enjoys the benefits of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Goal 8 targets
This goal seeks to sustain per capita economic growth in national contexts with a minimum of seven per cent gross domestic product (GDP) per annum, in least developed countries. To put it simply, Goal 8 seeks to ensure that countries experience sustained economic growth by maximising their respective potentials. It takes in to consideration the various levels of development in countries across the world and seeks to promote sustained growth while acknowledging that all countries cannot experience the same level of growth.
Goal 8 also aims to achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification of imports and exports, technological developments, and innovation. The focus here is on high value added and labour intensive sectors like agriculture and hospitality.
This goal aims to create and promote sustainable development-oriented policies that that support productivity, decent job creation, creativity and innovation. It also promotes the formalisation and growth of micro- small- and medium sized businesses.
By 2030, this goal aims to significantly improve resource efficiency in global consumption and production while making efforts to separate economic growth from environmental degradation. It aims to achieve decent work and productive work for all men and women including young people and persons with disabilities, with goals of equal pay for work of equal value at the forefront.
Goal 8 progress
In the past 25 years, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined significantly, despite the 2008 global recession and economic crisis. Between 1991 and 2015, the middle class in developing countries tripled; they now make up over 34 per cent of total employment.
However, presently, the global economy is seeing slower growth, widening inequalities and a lack of available jobs to keep up with the ever growing labour force. In 2015, according to International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics, more than 204 million people were unemployed.
This estimated number fell to 172 million in 2018, which makes up a 5 per cent rate of employment. With the rate of the growth of the labour force, the number of unemployed was meant to increase yearly by one million, estimating 174 million unemployed people by 2020.
Despite the decline in the number of workers living in extreme or moderate poverty, approximately 700 million workers lived in these conditions in 2018, earning less that US$ 3.20 per day. Gender inequalities too still prevail, as in 2018, women’s participation in the labour force stood at 48 per cent, compared to 75 per cent for men.
Over 2 billion people were in informal employment in 2016. Informal employment accounts for 61 per cent of the global workforce. Further, workers in many sectors are still underutilised; women more than men, with the number standing at 85 million and 55 million respectively.
In 2019, though the global unemployment rate was 5 per cent, Northern Africa and Western Asia unemployment rates stood at 11 per cent, with a considerable number of unemployed youth. That is, in 2019, 22 per cent of the global youth population were not in employment, education or training – something that has not seen significant change since 2005.
The effects of the global pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted billions of lives and endangered the global economy that is still recovering from the 2008 economic crisis. In fact, as a consequence of the pandemic, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts an even bigger global recession than that of 2008/09 and estimates that nearly half the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods.
Even before the pandemic, projections showing that one in five countries, where billions still lived in poverty, were likely to experience per capita income stagnation or decline in 2020, Now, with the pandemic and the economic consequences of the same, such as disruptions of industrial productions, drops in commodity prices and volatility of the financial market as a while, these projections are likely to worsen, taking impact from the pandemic and other pre-existing factors.
The pandemic has caused workers to be laid off and small businesses to shut doors unexpectedly, causing mass unemployment, debt and other personal financial crises. As discussed above, without decent work, any economic growth cannot be enjoyed by all. Thus, now more than ever, international cooperation and re-evaluation of the targets set by Goal 8 are essential to at least attempting to make some progress towards the 2030 agenda.
With increased pressure on the global economy, many of the 2030 targets of Goal 8 are now unattainable. Yet, significant progress can still be made with well-aimed government bailouts, and individual stimulus packages that are targeted at workers and not large companies or industries. To expect a trickle down from industry level bailouts is utopian, and thus we as an international community must work to ensure that the workers themselves are adequately protected and provided for in these unprecedented times.
Join us next week for a discussion of Goal 9!