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Sustainable Development Goal No. 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth


We are living in turbulent times with a global pandemic that we do not see the end of and with which we will still have to deal with a good season. But leaving aside this extraordinary situation and its social and economic consequences, this ODS No. 8, decent work and economic growth, in my opinion, is one of the key objectives of this series that encompasses the United Nations Agenda 2030. If there is one issue that is controversial in any political agenda, and its value to the entire planet, it is that of employment policy and the economic growth that goes with it. There is no doubt that a strong society and country, with a citizenry that has achieved and consolidated a high degree of social welfare, is based on employment policies and economic growth. However, this reality hides, underneath its theory, inequalities and injustices as well as other types of impacts that reveal the existence of serious deficiencies in the economic model that systematically fail attempts to achieve an inclusive, sustained and sustainable model that drives progress, creates decent jobs for all and improves living standards.

The gender inequalities, unfortunately very consolidated in the labor field, the precarious work, in many countries still in conditions of semi-slavery or simply the total lack of labor perspectives due to circumstantial crises, almost chronic situations in poor countries or with high degrees of government corruption, all of them causes, among others, that bring with them an economic deficit whose consequences entail the aggravation of the poverty putting in a situation of helplessness to great part of the world population.

However, it is paradoxical to note that while the world economy and that of many countries is growing, citizens and workers see their jobs, their labor rights and ultimately their living conditions increasingly restricted or precarious.

Having a job does not always guarantee decent living conditions

Damian Grimshaw
Director of the Research Department of the ILO.

According to data from the United Nations Development Programme:

– 172 million people worldwide were out of work in 2018, an unemployment rate of 5 percent. The number of unemployed has been increasing every year, reaching 190.3 million in 2020.

– According to the World Bank, the rate of extreme poverty will increase by 150 million people by 2021, in addition to the more than 700 million already counted in 2018. One tenth of the world’s population is below the USD 1.90 a day line, nearly a quarter lives on less than USD 3.20, and more than 40% of the world’s inhabitants (nearly 3.3 billion people) are below the USD 5.50 line.

– Women’s labor force participation was 48 percent in 2018, compared to 75 percent for men. About 3 out of 5 of the 3.5 billion people in the workforce in 2018 were men. In most countries, women on average earn only 60 to 75 percent of men’s wages.

Underlying this dance of numbers is the pressing need for political action at all levels, without which it will be very difficult for millions of people around the world to overcome this situation of chronic or supervening poverty, and which will be further aggravated by the current COVID pandemic crisis19 or the worsening of the planet’s health due to climate change and its consequences. The question is whether these policies of a social nature, of economic sustainability, will arrive or will we continue to see how the national or supranational public authorities look the other way while a large part of the world’s population is exploited, made precarious and lives below the poverty line, or will they soon do so as a supposedly acceptable price for continuing to feed this economic model.

It is possible, however, that the true interest of the system is only that exponential economic growth without looking at the price to be paid in return or the injured or dead it leaves behind. The pandemic has left us a good example of this theory. It has been amply demonstrated in these months, almost a year now, that saving the economy, the economic system, however unjust and unsustainable it may be, is more important than the life of any person, than the life of millions of people. Workers, many of them in precarious conditions and whose jobs do not guarantee them a dignified life, but which in many cases have meant that they suffer the consequences of the pandemic, sometimes death. Meanwhile, the political powers try to protect the economy above all by accepting along the way even people’s lives in return.

This ODS No. 8 proposes decent work and economic growth, which for now is largely a utopia. If we really want to achieve this goal, we must analyze what economic model we want and what implications and impacts it has and will have for the planet in general and for people in particular.


The current model of economic growth and work leaves aside any consideration of transformation towards a model based on sustainability. If we want a planet with a future that does not suffer the consequences of an economy based on exponential growth that depletes the planet and ignores any consideration of social justice at all levels, we must emphasize a transformation of the growth model based on sustainability and social justice.

Analyzing niche jobs and seizing the opportunity offered by the transition and subsequent consolidation of a model based on a green economy must set our agenda for change. A clear example of this potential is stated in the UN report – World Employment and Social Prospects [2018] – “Compliance with the Paris Accords would create 24 million jobs worldwide. 163 economic sectors will benefit, including the renewable energy sector, where 2.5 million new jobs will be created“. Of course, this is only the beginning. Entrepreneurship and job creation must be promoted under these principles.

Increased productivity and technological innovation are two of the pillars that will underpin this model transition, undoubtedly under the umbrella of postulates and future prospects based on models of economic sustainability. Otherwise, the so-called “Business as usual” will continue to set an economic agenda without any change based on the current unfair, unsustainable system that makes work precarious when it does not destroy it, putting millions of people at risk or simply condemning them to poverty and helplessness and creating great social inequalities.

This green contract must be promoted as soon as possible in order to value people and the planet with the aim of guaranteeing a future, as defined by the Global Compact, that is sustained, inclusive and sustainable and that benefits all people equally and does not harm the environment. This objective must be structured through the creation of “decent employment for all people, especially women, youth and other groups in vulnerable situations, eradicating practices such as forced and child labor[…]“. Entrepreneurship, and creation of equal, innovative, sustained but sustainable employment.

And all this must start from the bottom, from our position as citizens, from our attitude, our vote, a vote that demands overcoming the limitations of politics without renouncing with the necessary ambition the transformations that are pertinent to transforming this model. Sectors such as the transformation of energy and its decarbonization, the transformation of the model of cities, their mobility, the way of consuming and managing the planet’s resources, the circular economy as an economic pillar … are just some of the models that should lead the entrepreneurship and employment generation that transform the social and economic model to a planet and a society as marked by this ODS No. 8 where sustained and sustainable economic growth is the result of decent and fair work.