The World is observing August as the month of SDG8, one of the 17 goals that were agreed upon by the global community in 2015 to improve the lives of all people by 2030 and to protect the planet we live in. Unfortunately, the world is lagging far behind the targets and likely to miss all. India, with largest population in the world, will have largest contribution in the failure.
Most importantly, SDG8 impacts, all other 16 Sustainable Development Goals. It covers sustainable economic growth and decent work for all, which brings together social, economic, and environmental targets. India, under the premiership of Narendra Modi, has been ignoring it throughout these years, though ironically, during his election campaign as prime ministerial candidate, had promised ‘economic growth and decent work for all’.
The ruling establishment under PM Narendra Modi in India is in contrast marked by ‘economic growth with little job creation’ due to policies adopted by the government that promotes only creation of wealth for handful of entities. Only 20 per cent of the companies bagging 60 per cent of wealth and 70 per cent of the entire profit of the country, while unemployment rate is hovering at historically high around 8 per cent for quite some time. Formal decent jobs are replaced unprecedentedly faster rate with informal jobs without social security. The net result is – India houses largest number of poor in the world and about 68 per cent of the people are not able to afford healthy food. Far reaching consequences are bound to appear.
In this backdrop, observance of SDG8 month globally has special significance for India. It is expected to prepare the political leadership across the world for the SDG Summit in September, which will be a vital moment for the international community to give SDG8 and the other 16 goals the boost they need in the mid-way (2015-2030).
At the beginning of the SDG8 month on August 1, the ILO Director-General Gilbert F Houngbo had appealed the leadership across the countries to accelerate work of SDG8 for ‘sustainable economic growth with decent work for all’ with a warning that without concerted action on the social, economic and environmental targets Goal 8 covers, humanity risks being locked in a cycle of crisis and conflict on a forever damaged planet.
The Atlas of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2023 released by the World Bank says that in 2023, India’s GDP is expected to see a shortfall of around $296 billion compared to pre-COVID expectations, 8.7 percent below earlier projections. The country’s economy is not expected to make up the lost ground at least through 2025. This suggests long-lasting damage.
In the light of this assessment, it would be difficult to maintain the euphoria created by the Modi government regarding India’s fastest growing economy tag. It is deceptive though it may help the ruling establishment in forthcoming general election 2024. It is clear that India is far behind achieving sustainable economic growth, the first part of the SDG8.
It is disheartening that India ranks 112 out of 166 countries in overall SDG Index Rank with a score of merely 63.5. With unemployment rate at historically high, significant challenges remain for India in respect of SDG8. The adjusted GDP growth value for the year 2021 was in minus (-)2.63 per cent.
Challenges remain in respect of the victims of modern-day slavery. The latest data is available for the year 2018, and the value for the country’s achievement was 6.1 per thousand population.
As for the adults with an account at a bank or other financial institution or with a mobile-money-service provided, challenges remain as 77.53 per cent of people had accounts in 2021.
Unemployment rate remains as high as 7.34 per cent in 2023, says the SDG report with a score stagnating or increasing at less than 50 per cent of required rate. It indicated that challenges remain, and it would be too difficult for the country to provide decent work for all by 2030. Unemployment rate reduction target by 2030 is 0.5 per cent.
Major challenge remains in respect of the fundamental labour rights effectively guaranteed. On the scale of 0-1, India’s score in 2021 was only 0.49, which is insufficient to attain this goal by 2030.
The SDG index says that information regarding employment-to-population ratio is unavailable for India. However, the government data released for 2021-211 in March 2023 says that India’s worker-population ratio has risen from 50.9 per cent in 2019-20 to 52.9 per cent. However, the long term objective for this indicator is targeted at 77.8 per cent. It is therefore clear that India is heading towards utter failure in this regard.
As for the youth not in employment, education and training (NEET), the SDG report says that information is not available. However, according to the latest Multiple Indicator Survey (MIS) report of the government’s National Sample survey, released in April 2023, about 33 per cent of India’s youth (15-29 years of age), that is one in three, was not in NEET. Over 50 per cent of Indian women in this age group were neither employed nor studying. Most aren’t even seeking for jobs.
India needs, therefore to work hard to achieve SDG8 goals by 2030, since it is out of track to achieving them, which will impact all other Ageda 2030 goals, as per the ILO warning.
The world of work is undergoing unprecedentedly faster changes. What we don’t know is whether theses changes in technology, demography, economy and climate etc will change our world of work for better or worse, says the ILO.
Globally, inequalities are reaching unprecedented levels. Global employment growth will be only 1.0 per cent in 2023, less than half that of 2022. Global unemployment is expected to rise by around three million in 2023 to 208 million. The cost-of-living crisis is pushing more people into poverty, including working poverty. The most vulnerable workers include 200 million people living in absolute poverty and two billion in the informal economy, where they frequently lack legal rights or social protection.
So, what can be done? This will remain among the key question during August, the SDG8 month, and the SDG Summit in New York in September. (IPA Service)