IMF is predicting an equal or worse recession than that of 2009 citing the pandemic-induced economic crisis as the worst since the Great Depression. Amid the rising cost of living and this post-Covid economic crisis we turn towards Sustainable Development Goal #8, Decent Work and Economic Growth this August. With working conditions continuously deteriorating, more and more people are losing their jobs or are at risk of living in working poverty – that is, not being able to make ends meet on their salaries. Such volatile conditions are a huge barrier to sustainable development: The paralysing state of living from day to day disables people from participating in society and from reaching their full potential.

SDG#8 Decent Work and Economic Growth: sustainable and inclusive growth is the only way

At the core of the economy, nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing their livelihoods. Decent work means equal access to opportunities, a fair income, social protection at the workplace, as well as development opportunities and social integration. Still, many have no access to the job market at all – whether because of their age, gender, legal status, or an intersection of these, too many people and communities are excluded from decent work and economic growth. Already before the Covid-related financial shocks, in 2019, 22% of the global youth was not engaged in either employment, education, or training. As inequalities grow, the gender employment and pay gap too persists. Globally, men earn 23% more than women and participate in the labour force at a much higher rate.

Volunteer teaching students

As UN Secretary-General said, "The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to a different economy" and indeed, unsustainable, and exclusionary economic practices must come to a halt if we are to achieve Agenda 2030 and the Global Goals.

The recovery from the COVID-19 crisis must lead to a different economy

Antonio Gueterres

The solution? Decent workplaces, fair conditions, a levelled playing field, and a trained workforce.

UCL and Decent Work and Economic Growth

Leading by example, UCL has implemented a system that ensures that there is no child labour, slavery, or exploitation in the institution’s robust and global supply chains. The various goods and services that UCL procures put the institution at risk of soliciting modern slavery at the ends of complex value chains. To combat this possibility, UCL’s Sustainability Strategy includes only engaging with certified suppliers, and implements more frequent and thorough audits of suppliers. This includes training staff to carry out compliance checks as well as encouraging suppliers to conduct inner audits and exercise caution through signing them up to a portal providing bespoke sustainability action plans.

Another UCL team is working with Greater Manchester to make the area carbon-neutral by 2038. Urban areas are busting with economic opportunities and cities provide job opportunities to millions. However, as long as the growth harms the environment, it is not sustainable: 36% of global carbon emissions come from buildings whose number is only set to increase in the next two decades and beyond. As such, neutralising emissions from the area will ensure that economic growth achieved in Greater Manchester will benefit not only people but the planet too. If the pilot succeeds, its replication in other cities will provide further jobs to tens of thousands of workers.

Adopting the principle that No one should be left behind, UCL is using its intelligence to inquire into equitable growth and factors hindering it. Attila Lindner from UCL Economics and his team have been analysing minimum wage policies and their effects on employment and salary trends. Effects of introducing a minimum wage policy are long-term and multi-layered and understanding them might help develop new economic models in which the workforce most prone to being unfairly disadvantaged by these very policies is considered.

Researchers and their posters on an Acamedics Conference

Support a Goal #8 Charity

Target 8.5. Full employment and decent work with equal pay

Training Link offers courses to disadvantaged adults to help them find employment and to encourage them back into adult education as well as develop their skills. They provide a variety of courses, including IT, food hygiene, business administration and English as a Second or Other Language (ESOL). As an Adult Literacy Volunteer you will help disadvantaged individuals regardless of their age improve their reading, writing, spelling, and grammar. In this role you can directly work towards full employment through ensuring that no one is excluded from the job market and the formal economy.

8.7. End Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Child Labour

Refuge is the UK’s largest provider of specialist services for victims of all forms of gender-based violence (domestic, sexual, so called ‘honour’ violence, modern slavery and human trafficking, prostitution, forced marriage, stalking and FGM). They are looking for female volunteers passionate and compassionate about feminist issues. As a National Domestic Abuse Helpline Volunteer you will be a vital part in their operation being the first point of contact to vulnerable individuals. Through providing services and support to survivors, Refuge is giving them another chance at a safe, fulfilling, and productive life.

Target 8.8. Protect labour rights and promote safe working environments

The Work Rights Centre is a charity supporting migrants in accessing fair employment and achieving social mobility. As a Service Provision Assistant you will be directly involved in their valuable work enabling migrants to take on work and fight stigma and discrimination. If you speak another European language (and especially an Eastern European) you can also volunteer with the Centre as a Translator Assistant enabling communication between clients and case workers as well as translating vital materials.

CoachBritght volunteer tutoring a student

Everyone deserves fair chances and fair treatment at work. It is all of our responsibility to help those disadvantaged fulfill their potential to gain employment, and we must keep employers accountable to combat discrimination and exploitation. Volunteering and advocacy are great ways to partake in the fight for inclusive, sustainable economic growth.

Read about how to support other Global Goals through volunteering here.

Written by Zsófia Bekker