Decent Work Opportunities Central to Achieving Sustainable Development
Attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings warned about the threat of ‘digital sharks’, companies with a ‘winner takes all’ attitude. He said what was needed was ‘Adaption, Mitigation and Just Transition’ to the new digital world to prevent the widening gap between the richest 1% and the rest.
Philip Jennings referred to another major transformation that is required to shift from a fossil fuel addicted economy to a world powered by 100% renewables. “We live in a world of rapid transformation and the workforce has a major role to play to put us on a safe track towards a sustainable future.”
The Human Development Report (HDR) highlights some of the key stumbling blocks which remain on the way towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2015. According to the HDR, “people are the real wealth of nations” and “work, not just jobs, contributes to human progress”. However precarious work can also damage human development. The Report sheds the light on a list of major issues:
Forced labour and child labour: there are 168 million child labourers and 21 million people in forced labour.
- Gender imbalances: women contribute 52% of global work, men 48%; women bear an unequal share of care work with men dominating the world of paid work, and women that of unpaid work. Globally women still earn 24 percent less than men.
- Youth unemployment: In 2015, 74 million young people (ages 15-24) were unemployed. Today more than half the world’s population is under age 30 triggering a large demand for job creation.
- Lack of social protection: only 27% of the world population is covered social protection and this figure falls down to 10% in the poorest countries.
- Digital divide: in 2015, 81% of households in developed countries had Internet access, compared with only 34% in developing country regions and 7% in the least developed countries.
- Rising inequalities: as reported by Oxfam, 80% of the world’s people have only 6% of the world’s wealth. The share of the richest 1% is likely to be more than 50% in 2016.
The Report also points out that the new industrial revolution taking place in the energy sector could trigger an unprecedented opportunity to generate sustainable work. In 2014, the renewable energy sector employed 7.7 million people and the job creation potential is considerable. Investing 1.5% of GDP in the clean energy sectors would create 12 million jobs in India and 11.4 million jobs in China, some good news if we look at the current level of instability on the Asia stock markets.
Finally, it concludes on four sets of policy options for enhancing human development through work:
- Creating work opportunities: this will require governments to formulate employment-led growth strategies with an employment target to achieve and develop new opportunities for workers by giving them access to financial services, decent wages as well as new skills and education.
- Strengthening the positive links between work and development: guaranteeing the rights and benefits of workers is at the heart of this link and is only possible if there are appropriate legislations in place to ensure social protection, a minimum living income and respect for workers’ rights, while promoting collective action and trade unionism. The most vulnerable groups including migrants, youth, people living in rural areas, people with disabilities and older people need special attention. Profit sharing and a better balance between labor mobility and capital mobility will also help reducing inequalities.
- Targeted actions will be needed to balance care and paid work, promote equal opportunities for women, create exciting opportunities for young people and boost the development of sustainable work.
- A global agenda for action should also redefine a New Social Contract in an increasingly flexible and informal job market. A Global Deal should also guide governments and employers to set the scene for a “global working life” which benefits human development by establishing global standards and global agreements across borders. The Decent Work Agenda includes four pillars: employment creation and enterprise development; standards and rights at work; social protection; governance and social dialogue.