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Finance & Innovation

Global Goal 8: Sustainable economies and good jobs

“There’s too few jobs and I can change that,” is the refrain of all politicians everywhere throughout modern history and the common denominator across parties.


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Unemployment affects all countries and it has risen in recent years across the world, from the shores of Greece to the factories of China to the streets of Nairobi.

People may not agree about what kinds of jobs there should be or what pay should look like or who should be responsible for providing them, but everyone agrees that more jobs is a good thing.

Global Goal 8 is all about jobs and the economies that foster them. Goal 8 envisions a world where everyone--women and young adults included--has a fulfilling job that supports a decent livelihood, where small businesses can thrive, where “the cost of doing business” does not entail environmental degradation.

That’s a pretty big ambition because most jobs around the world are not fulfilling and do not allow people to live comfortably and they are part of unsustainable, pollution-heavy economies.

But it’s a goal I absolutely think is possible--if structural changes are made.

So how can Goal 8 be a success?


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The core part of Goal 8 will be consistent regulation across industries and societies and the sharing of cutting edge technologies. 

At a glance, such regulations should include: the elimination of child labor and all forms of slavery; laws that limit wind, air and water pollution; laws that promote sustainable energy use; laws that promote circular consumption; laws that limit the exploitation of natural resources and forests; minimum wage laws; quality of life laws such as paid maternal leave, paid vacation, and paid overtime; laws that protect migrants; laws that streamline processes for small businesses and make it easy for them to do business; laws that break up monopolies.

That might seem like a lot, and I know that many people do not like hearing the word “regulation” and think that the free market should be given free reign to sort things out.

But sensible government regulation is not the enemy of the market. Regulation can guide an economy in a sustainable direction that looks after all citizens and promotes strong growth.

Again, such regulations have to be consistent across countries and can't be watered down or twisted by moneyed interests.

We already know what happens when laws are uneven around the world--it drags down quality of life everywhere.

Obviously this is easier said than done. Corruption is a major barrier to transparent, sustainable regulations.

In the US, for example, the Environmental Protection Agency has passed sensible, modest laws to regulate emissions over the past few years. And every time vested interests in the energy industry have funnelled lawsuits through district attorneys’ offices (that they contribute to) meant to halt implementation.

Even if it can't be labeled "Quid pro quo," this is textbook corruption and it threatens to derail necessary environmental safety measures.

In places like Burma and Qatar, workers toil in dismal conditions that provide little to no hope of a better life. In major cities in China and India, pollution has become so bad that millions of people have reduced lifetimes.

What countries ARE aligned with Goal 8 already?

I feel like Global Citizen has been saying this a lot throughout the Global Goals series, but here it is again: look to Scandinavia.

Scandinavia sets a pretty strong example on a lot of issues.

Sweden has proven that economic growth can be “decoupled” from environmental degradation. The home of H&M and Ikea cut emissions by 23% over the past 25 years while growing its economy by 55%.

Sweden has a strong welfare system, supports migrants, ensures quality of life measures such as extensive paid parental leave and universal healthcare.

Youth unemployment and general aimlessness is rampant around the world. Nearly half of all the world’s youth – 621 million – are not employed, in education or training!


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Much of this social exclusion is due to long-standing conflicts, corruption and social inequalities. But most economies do not adequately make room for young people.

Parts of Greece, for instance, have youth unemployment rates close to 70%.

In Zimbabwe, unemployment is around 95% and no doubt takes a heavy toll on young people looking to start families.

Germany is a country that looks out for its youth. Close to 60% of Germany’s youth enroll in apprenticeship programs, which equips them with important skills and connections.

In America, just 5% are ever apprentices. Of course, many Americans take unpaid internships in the hope of gaining experience--but that’s not a model to admire.

How about starting a small business? What country sets the gold standard in this category?

The US? The UK? Germany? Sweden?

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New Zealand has the most small business-friendly environment in the world in terms of ease of starting a business, access to credit and overall ease of doing business.

If you want to know what countries are doing the best to enable sustainable production, check out this piece on Global Goal 12.

What can you do?

Support labor issues. Buy from companies that use sustainable materials, care about the environment and treat workers fairly.

Encourage the passage of laws that elevate small businesses and provide job training programs for youths.

Most importantly, stay informed. Read about workers in other countries. Read about business practices. Talk to your friends about these issues.

And call on politicians to pursue Goal 12 in its purest form by going to TAKE ACTION NOW and sending out a tweet.