The Human Development report 2015 sets focus on work and human development
The theme of the Human Development Report (HDR) for 2015 is work for human development. The report applies broad definition of work which includes unpaid and paid, voluntary work and creative work.
At the Swedish launch of the report on 15th of December, 2015 at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Development Cooperation, Isabella Lövin highlighted the close linkage between work and human development:
- Access to the labour market under decent conditions is a basic condition for women and men’s ability to make use of their resources and capabilities, fulfil their ideas and contribute to development. Employment can create a bridge between economic development and poverty reduction provided it ensures people rights, and that it is productive and of quality and ensures sufficient income.
In order to lead to human development, work needs to ensure adequate work conditions and provide decent pay. Many jobs are in fact even damaging to human development, for example child labour and work in hazardous conditions. Challenges such as persistent poverty, inequalities and instability also hinder people from engaging in decent work. Globalization and technological revolution result in rapid changes on the job market and unskilled workers risk being the large losers.
The report is strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, especially goal 8 which focuses on the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, productive employment and decent work for all. The report is also relevant for the follow-up of the new global climate agreement as it sets focus on the necessary structural shift away from jobs which are not sustainable and not good for human development. In order to move forward with the international work agenda the HDR report calls for strengthened dialogue and cooperation between state, society, unions and private sector to improve social protection and guarantee workers’ rights.
It is welcome that the HDR sets focus on often neglected issues of the world of work, including how women are disadvantaged both in paid and unpaid work. The report also highlights important aspects of the complex relations between human development, economic development, work and poverty.
At the same time it is unfortunate that the HDR uses a narrow understanding of decent work. In its recommendations, focus is primarily set on work conditions, wages and the role of unions. A too restrained definition to the decent work agenda is however not suitable for most developing countries. Sida partner countries are characterised by small formal economic sectors, while the lion’s share works in the informal sector. In this context, a broader approach to employment which includes productive employment and skills developments as means of fostering a more inclusive economic growth is more appropriate.
This broader approach is reflected in Sida’s work on employment and skills development, which includes:
- Engaging in productive sectors for job creation and to make markets work for the poor
- Contributing to better functioning labour market and working conditions through support to the organisation of labour and social dialogue between them and employers’ organisations
- Supporting skills development and vocational training as a means to promote employability and empowerment of the poor
A key message of the Human Development Report 2015 is that there is no automatic link between national income and aggregated indices of human development. Chile and Equatorial Guinea for example have similar level of GNI per capita but obtain considerably different values in the Human Development Index (HDI). Understanding the dynamic of poverty is a key challenge for the post-2030 development agenda.
In order to better understand the underlying conditions and prerequisites for poverty reduction and inclusive growth, Sida is currently developing an analytical framework for poverty and development analysis. The HDR 2015 report is useful in this work, especially by illustrating the importance of further exploring the complex connections between work and human development.