Sustainable Development Goal 8 - decent work and economic growth

Over the past 25 years, the number of workers living in extreme poverty has declined dramatically, despite the long-lasting impact of the economic crisis of 2008/2009. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015. However, as the global economy continues to recover we are seeing slower growth, widening inequalities and employment that is not expanding fast enough to keep up with the growing labour force (SDG Fund, 2019).

The facts

The International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) 100th anniversary was commemorated in April this year at the UN Headquarters in New York, where the United Nations’ Global Assembly President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés noted that, despite the 180 ILO conventions, ranging from gender equality to forced labour, “injustice is still a reality for millions”. Some of the figures are:

  • Over 40 million people today are victims of modern slavery, which is more than twice the number involved in the transatlantic slave trade.
  • Many more women than men are underutilized in the labour force – 85 million compared to 55 million.
  • 190 million people are unemployed worldwide, a third of whom are young.
  • 300 million people make up the working poor, half of whom are young.
  • Some 700 million workers lived in extreme or moderate poverty in 2018, with less than US$ 3.20 per day.
  • 2 billion people are engaged in informal work, often without social protections.

María stressed that issues of social justice will become “even more important” as the world of work changes (SDG Knowledge Hub, 2019; UNDP, 2019).

The focus of SDG 8

The focus of sustainable development goal eight (SDG 8) is to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. SDG 8 contains a number of targets indicating the type and scale of economic growth desired. These include ensuring economic growth is faster (at least seven per cent per year) in the least developed countries and requiring that the growth is aligned with development-oriented policies such as supporting start-ups and SMEs, the eradication of modern slavery, and the prioritisation of high quality jobs.

How can business be involved?

As employers, creating decent jobs is one of the fundamental ways in which businesses support economic growth and sustainable development, but it is also how companies support and drive their own future development.

What is decent work?

Decent work, as defined by the ILO, is work that is productive and delivers a fair income; security in the workplace; social protection for families; better prospects for personal development and social integration; freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives; and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men (SDG Blueprint for Business, 2018).

UN Guiding Principles & SDG Blueprint for Business

A way of providing decent work is through the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights; a set of guidelines for States and companies to prevent, address and remedy human rights abuses committed in business operations (find the document here). Further, the SDG Blueprint for Business outlines four key ways that businesses can focus their actions on SDG8:

  • Support decent working conditions for all employees across the business and supply chains, with partnerships to build suppliers’ capacity to do the same.
  • Educate and train the labour force, focusing on vulnerable and economically disadvantaged groups.
  • Create decent formal-sector jobs in labour-intensive sectors, especially in least-developed countries.
  • Drive economic growth and productivity by investing in R&D, upgrading skills, and supporting growing businesses, in a way that is compatible with sustainable development.

SDG Video

The video below is created by our CR3+ partner Hanken School of Economics (Finland). The video focuses on the targets set for SDG 8. Firstly, the video features Professor Emeritus Jeff Hearn, Research Director of the GODESS Institute, a research and development institute that focuses on research areas of Gender, Organization, Diversity, Equality, and Social Sustainability in transnational times (Hanken, 2019). Jeff looks at “what is work?” and more importantly “what is decent work?”. Professor Emeritus Niklas Bruun, Chair of Board of the GODESS Institute, continues the discussion on decent work as outlined by the UN and explains the aims of the International Labour Organisation. Lastly, Charlotta Niemistö, Director of the GODESS Institute and Project Leader of Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WeAll), discusses sustainable economic growth and social and human sustainability.

Please enjoy the presentation.

If you would like access to the full video to use in your teaching, please contact Dr Swati Nagpal.

This blog is part of the SDG Series, a series that focuses on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, in the lead up to the CR3+ Conference in October 2019.
More blogs in the SDG Series:
- An introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 1
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 2
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 3
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 4
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 5
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 6
- SDG Series: Sustainable Development Goal 7