Investing in skills training will be key to creating the millions of jobs required in the next decade.

Photo: ILO/Muntasir Mamun/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Decent work and the SDGs

11 November 2015
Author: Myles Wickstead

At the end of September 2015 Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was ratified by UN member-states in New York.

The (17) new Sustainable Development Goals are much more comprehensive than the (8) Millennium Development Goals they replace, and are underpinned by 169 targets and a set of indicators that have yet to be determined. The preamble to Transforming Our World helpfully packages the goals into five "Ps": people (leave no-one behind), planet (ecosystems need to be nurtured and used sustainably) and prosperity (economic growth). It won't happen unless there is peace, and the development of partnerships is essential for implementation.

The underlying process was also important, and the goals and targets reflect widespread consultation with both governments and civil society. It comes as no surprise to learn that, when asked, people put access to education and health at the top of their priorities. Jobs and decent work came next. Why?

Self-evidently, young people leaving the education system want jobs, but so too do people coming up to retirement age in countries that have not yet developed social protection or pension schemes. And for many barely surviving in the subsistence economy, a job can take them and their families to a different level.

This is fully reflected in goal 8 and in paragraph 27 of the preamble to Transforming Our World, which reads: "We will work to build dynamic, sustainable, innovative and people-oriented economies, promoting youth employment and women’s economic empowerment, in particular, and decent work for all."

The need for jobs is, on reflection, self-evident and overwhelming. The International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that 600 million jobs will be required in the next ten years. So what needs to happen next? For one thing, international NGOs should think about how they can support job creation. For some, that is their raison d'etre. Hand in Hand, for example, has trained over 1.5 million people (typically poor, women farmers), developed their technical and financial skills, then linked them to markets, creating more than 2 million jobs in the process, largely in India, but increasingly in Africa and Afghanistan too. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is also helping local people to develop entrepreneurial skills in countries such as Tanzania. 

Other international NGOs will have different priorities – but they should all be thinking about job creation, training and skills development. And governments and the private sector must also be involved, to provide the infrastructure and markets that small businesses need to succeed.

So here’s a thought: let’s create a Bond Group focusing on this agenda, to exchange information and good practice on how we judge success. Anyone out there up for that?

About the author

Myles Wickstead

Author and professor