The Post-2015 Agenda provides an opportunity to overcome the fragmented approach often found in government policy-making and programmes of international organizations. A crucial contribution of SDG 8 (“Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”) lies in the efforts of establishing global coherence by linking sustained and sustainable economic growth, labour rights and the unifying framework of the sustainable development agenda.
Connecting the social to the economic: a crucial linkage. Connecting “decent work for all” to “economic growth” is a call for all development partners active in labour and employment issues to work more effectively together and ensure coherence and convergence of their efforts; government and UN agencies alike. Referring to both “promoting decent work for all”, the basis for the International Labour Organization (ILO)’s agenda; and “economic growth”, one of the main objectives of the World Trade Organization (WTO), is a step towards coherence. Another critical step: changing narrative from a pure focus on “competitiveness” to inclusive growth based on strengthened workers’ rights. Vulnerable employment, defined by the ILO as either self-employment or work by contributing family workers, accounts for almost 48 per cent of total employment. Working poverty affects 839 million workers living on less than US$2 a day and concerns 26.7 per cent of total employment. Connecting social rights to sustainable and sustained growth, therefore, helps ensure that economic gains translate into concrete advances for poor and marginalized citizens as well.
Inclusiveness starts with equality. In SDG 8, striving for equality is pinned to target 8.5 – “full and productive employment and decent work” for the most vulnerable groups: women, young people and persons with disabilities. Separate and special requirements are made for the worst forms of child labour including forced labour and recruitment and use of child soldiers (target 8.7), as well as the protection of migrant workers (target 8.8).
Unemployment, working poverty and informal/vulnerable employment. Unemployment among young people aged 15 to 24 affects 75.4 million young people, i.e. 13.1 per cent of total unemployment and is almost three times higher than the adult unemployment rate. Persistent unemployment can create enabling conditions for short-term and vulnerable employment and in some countries define the labour market as a whole. Informal employment rates in several South and South-East Asia countries sometimes reach up to 90 per cent of total employment. These dimensions of precarious and vulnerable employment create barriers to sustainable poverty alleviation.
Other frontiers. Despite the social economic importance of decent work, other areas need to be tackled in order for SDG 8 to deliver. The goal calls for a minimum annual growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 7% in least developed countries (target 8.1) as a complement to some of the other elements discussed earlier. Diversification, technology upgrades and innovation in economies that lead to improved living conditions for all, particularly the poor and marginalized, will also be important. Critical too is the enabling environment for them to become entrepreneurs and owners of small and medium enterprises (their capacity to boost the economy and employ people throughout territories is recognized in target 8.3), facilitated by adequate access to financial services (target 8.10).
SDG 8 has a clear link with SDG 12 (see blog on Sustainable Production and Consumption) and SDG 10 (see blog on Reduced inequalities) since the achievement on sustained and sustainable growth will require doing more with less. “Sustainable consumption” that reconciles economic productivity with “global resource efficiency”, should not happen at the expense of social rights and environmental concerns.
Sustainable tourism (target 8.9) is one visible way of making the above practical and doable. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) estimates that in 2012, 1 billion international tourists and over 4 billion domestic tourists were expected to travel the world, generating more than US$ 1 trillion in international tourism receipts. This sector currently accounts for 5% of direct global GDP, 30 per cent of the world’s services exports and generates 1 in 12 jobs worldwide. In Small Island (Developing) States, tourism can account for up to 25 per cent of GDP and a significant percentage of the workforce. Sustainable tourism requires constant monitoring of impacts, as well as preventive and/or corrective measures to prevent environmental degradation and socio-economic conflicts that are associated with uncontrolled tourism. The 10YFP Sustainable Tourism Programme (STP) will help the tourism sector to enhance its sustainability and sustain its growth.SDG 8 plays a pivotal role in bringing together key elements of an integrated, inclusive and sustainable development agenda: environmental and cultural rights, poverty reduction, jobs and industry, to name a few.
Get to know the other SDGs at www.globalgoals.org!
 International Labour Organization, ’Global Employment Trends 2014: Risk of a Jobless Recovery?’, Geneva, 2014. Accessible from http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—dgreports/—dcomm/—publ/documents/publication/wcms_233953.pdf