Spotlight Series: SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth


“Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”

Over the past 25 years both the population in extreme poverty and the unemployment rates have decreased dramatically, even considering the 2008 economic crisis and global recession. In developing countries, the middle class now makes up more than 34 percent of total employment – a number that has almost tripled between 1991 and 2015.

Regardless, with the recovery of the global economy we are seeing growth slowing and inequalities and pay gaps rising and on top of there are not enough employment opportunities to cope with the growing population with over 204 million people being unemployed in 2015 (according to the international labour organisation)

The encouragement of entrepreneurship and the creation of new jobs are key to this SDG being effective in to eradicating forced labour, human trafficking and slavery. The ultimate aim is to have full employment for every man and woman by 2030. But this has been broken up into 13 smaller targets, each with individual indicators on whether this is being achieved.

  • Sustained economic growth per capita for all nations

This of course would have to be in accordance with national circumstances. But for each nation there would have to be at least 7 per cent GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth per annum in the least developed countries. The indicator of this would be the annual growth rate of real GDP per capita.

  • Achieve higher levels of economic productivity

This would be done through using more diverse means, upgrading the technology through innovation and focusing on high-value added and labour- intensive sectors of the work force. This development could be seen through the Annual growth rate of read GDP per (employed) person.

  • Promote development-oriented policies

This would be focused on policies which promote things such as decent- job creation, entrepreneurship and largely formalisation of jobs or creation of formal jobs. The growth here is indicated by the amount of people working formally in non- agricultural work.

A large issue with employment currently in many developing countries is the lack of formal jobs. A good example of this is in Zimbabwe. There is large discussion over the reality of the unemployment rate, with some sources saying 5%, some saying 12% and some saying 89%.  The variety in these statistics comes from what employment is considered to be. With only 11% of Zimbabwe’s population formally employed, it becomes difficult for the entire economy to grow, because the informal sector is not taxed or regulated by the government in anyway. This is not only detrimental to the economy, but also the worker’s rights, because the regulations regarding things like minimum wage and working conditions become very hard to enforce.


  • Efficient use of resources

This goal is one which combines itself with some of the other SDG’s and shows how economic growth ties in with the larger environmental sustainability as well—this target is aimed at decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. Whether this is being achieved can be seen through a nations material footprint, material footprint per capita, and material footprint per GDP and the domestic material consumption, domestic material consumption per capita, and domestic material consumption per GDP.

  • Equal pay and complete employment

This would be measured by the amount of young people not in either education or work preparation

  • Eradication of forced labour

This is one target where it the action needed is that which is immediate. Forced labour encompasses things like child labour, human trafficking and modern forms of slavery.

  • Promote sustainable tourism
  • Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions

This would be to the effect of expanding access to financial services for all. This would beachieved through increasing aid for trade support in developing countries as well as developing and operationalising a global strategy for youth employment.


A large misconception with this SDG is that it is independent from the other SDGs, and possibly of detriment to them. But it is important to remember that targets for economic growth and coupled closely with many of the other SDGs and are also very much enforcing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with the attempt to eradicate forced labour.


This is part 9/18 of a series on the Sustainable Development Goals.




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