Even more important in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic
For vulnerable groups of people in South Africa (mainly the youth, women and South Africans struggling with chronic poverty), job creation, entrepreneurship and sustainable small and medium-sized entities must be the focal point of SDG 8: ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’.
The rapid growth in technological innovations that demand structural transformation, economic development and social change (against a backdrop of profound demographic imbalances and how these interlinked processes are expected to shape the future of work) leaves one wondering where jobs will come from and what they will look like.
In South Africa and other countries with developing economies, there is a continuous surge in inequality as well as insufficient job creation to sustain the economy. Putting job creation at the heart of economic policymaking and development plans is the beacon of hope the country needs to ensure that decent work opportunities and more inclusive economic growth is generated. With this in place, reduced poverty will be the outcome.
What is SDG 8?
SDG 8 seeks to achieve decent work and economic growth for all by ensuring productive employment within an economy, economic emancipation (for young people and women in particular), the eradication of forced labour and modern slavery, safe and secure working conditions for all people are promoted, and sustainable tourism practices.
For the least developed countries, the SGD 8 target is to attain at least 7% economic growth in GDP.1 The target for 2020 is to reduce youth unemployment. Informal labour remains of critical concern for the decent work agenda, particularly in countries where labour laws do not sufficiently protect employees.
Why is it important?
Already in 2018, 700 million workers were living in extreme or moderate poverty with an income equating less than $3,20 per day. Owing to lack of decent work, people around the world are unable to maintain a decent standard of living for themselves and their families. A lack of work opportunities, insufficient investments, as well as under-consumption lead to an erosion of the basic social contract underlying democratic societies.
This SDG, together with other SDGs, is designed to be a ‘blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all’. For example, decent work helps to eradicate poverty and hunger through the household’s ability to earn an income (SDGs 1 and 2), provides wider access to health care and education (SDGs 3 and 4) and contributes towards reducing economic inequality (SGD 10). Through the above, SDG 8 focuses on creating a demand for employees in a country where there is seemingly an over-supply.
Informal labour remains of critical concern to the decent work agenda. Most people enter the informal economy, which is characterised by low productivity and low pay, not by choice but impelled by the lack of opportunities in the formal economy and an absence of other means of livelihood. Informal employment constitutes more than one half of non-agricultural employment in most regions of the developing world.3
In South Africa, the biggest challenges are macro-economic. With economic growth at an all-time low, 20,4 million young people4 unemployed, businesses struggling to retain employees and the Fourth Industrial Revolution on our doorstep, the challenge of preserving and creating a demand for the labour force remains fierce. Adding in the effects of a global pandemic creates a recipe for a national state of disaster.
South Africa faces a misalignment between the skills and experience that is necessary in the workplace and the skills that are being developed / exposure granted. This results in many employment programmes being largely ineffective. Arguing a case for more apprenticeships and working opportunities in large corporate institutions becomes an uphill battle.
Further challenges identified include small-medium enterprises’ limited access to financial products in order to expand (thus creating a demand for employees) and their lack of knowledge in areas of business management, marketing and strategy to sustainably grow and produce decent work. The lack of support for SMEs by all their stakeholders results in their demise, which reduces the demand for insufficiently skilled labour. In a country where much of the economy is carried by SMEs (just like in any other developing country), their stifled growth in turn stifles the availability of decent, long-lasting work.
Solutions to overcoming these challenges
Statistics show that 600 million new jobs need to be created by 2030 to keep pace with the growth of the working age population. In South Africa, the FinBiz 2030 Taskforce has partnered with various organisations in the Global Business Service (GBS) sector to create a demand for young people in the working world, while boosting economic growth. The primary objective of the GBS is to create employment in South Africa by in-housing tasks that were normally outsourced to other countries such as China and India and to promote South Africa as a global destination for other countries to outsource their business needs to.
The secondary objectives of the programme are to create employment opportunities for the youth (age 18−34 years) and contribute to the country’s export revenue from offshoring services.
Solutions to addressing the challenges faced in achieving SDG 8 include:
Supporting SMEs through appropriately tailored support networks that will guide them through operational hiccups and advise them on strategic, legal and financial decisions. Further support for SMEs includes private-public partnerships that drive SME growth.
Connecting skilled workers with businesses requiring those skills (as done by the Youth Employment Services (YES) programme).
Carrying out research and providing statistics to companies on how contributions to SDG 8 can benefit them (thus encouraging them to take part and align themselves with this SDG). Key indicators include monetary impact, productivity and output of workers.
Many stakeholders, including government, businesses and workers, need to be involved in advancing decent work and economic growth.
1 Total monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.
AUTHOR | Damian Judge
Ms Van Straaten brings with her extensive experience in stakeholder relations with her background as Key Client Services Manager, and savvy and professional communication skills as Head of Broadcasting, both positions held at Classic FM. With a degree in Law and Politics from the Rand Afrikaans University in 2003, Ms Van Straaten is passionate about South Africa especially social integration and cites the growth of the Campaign’s membership base and driving demand for locally-made products and services rendered as her key objectives at Proudly SA. Ms Van Straaten prizes creativity in the workplace with her background in music as a violinist, and places particular importance on education and continuous personal development. Her MBA candidacy at Henley Business School is testament to this. Other past experience includes Manager of the #IamConstitution Campaign at The Ichikowitz Family Foundation in which she witnessed first-hand the unification of people from various backgrounds who all possess one common goal, togetherness – this lesson she endeavours to share with member companies to inspire them to bridge the divide in the name of togetherness to collectively contribute to the growth of the country’s economy.