A Magazine About Food, Art & Exchange In Midtown Kingston, Published By The Hudson Valley Current.

UN Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

UN goal eight deserves a thorough review.

Today we have the opportunity to address the issue of inequality through what we know as decent work for all. If we define what is a decent job, we can override a very long list of what does not apply. Any work that endangers the worker or their family or their community, causes harm to the environment, or encourages physical or emotional violence of any individual and their community or town should be written on this list.

Throughout the world, the greatest social problems are related to economic systems that in turn magnify the difficulties of impoverished people and favor those who have more, much more. Under these systems, for those in a situation of poverty, life is about removing these difficulties or facing them in order to lead life in the best possible way and retain what is achieved with so much effort. For those who have a little more and are called middle class, the options of dreaming open  up but there is still so much to battle. For the rich or the millionaire or arch-millionaire, their battle is about how to handle so much money, resources and power.

In his book, A World of Three Zeros, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus puts it like this:

In 2010, Oxfam reported that the world’s richest 388 people owned more wealth than the entire bottom half of the world’s population—a group that included an estimate of 3.3 billion human beings. At the time, this was considered a startling statistic, and was reported as such around the world. But in the years since then, the problem has grown much worse. In January 2017, Oxfam announced that the ultra privileged group that owns wealth exceeding the bottom half of the world’s population has shrunk to just eight people.

Let’s say that the members of the United Nations did not forget that this is a major contributor to the multitude of social and environmental problems that we suffer and it must be remedied. On its list of sustainable goals for 2030, the eighth addresses economic inequality. This goal is to have inclusive and sustained economic growth that can drive progress, create decent jobs for all, and improve living standards.

There is no way to say the UN is advancing in this objective, except in some sectors and one of them it can be in technological modernization and innovation. Because with education, many leaps can be made, as we know.

But the pandemic has put the most vulnerable at a disadvantage and has also disrupted the economies of many countries. According to the UN, “The International Monetary Fund foresees a global recession,” and “as job losses intensify, the International Labor Organization estimates that about half of all workers worldwide are at risk of losing their means of subsistence ”

It makes me uncomfortable to write this bad news, because we all hope that things will change. We have a new president in this country, there are more job openings and grants, our surrounding local communities have residents and groups extending hands to each other, and I still see a world of good food wasted in the trash from so many establishments. Many of us do not have a sense of scarcity, despite all the social problems we face. But even so, inequality affects us so much.

Of all the 17 goals the UN has set out to accomplish by 2030, this is the weakest. The UN promotes having decent or fair jobs under “economic structures that are not sustainable”, for me.

I leave you with the wisdom of Yunus, the man who created, with microcredit loans, an economic movement that has helped lift millions of families out of poverty.

“…capitalism…it has produced astounding technological advances and huge wealth accumulations, but at the cost of creating enormous inequality and the terrible human problems that inequality fosters. We need to abandon our unconditional faith in the power of personal profit-focused markets to solve all problems and confess that the problems of inequalities will not be solved by the natural functioning of the economy as it is currently structured. On the contrary, problems are getting sharper and faster.”