How is the Pandemic Impacting the Future of Decent Work and Economic Growth?

The pandemic has not changed our economic conditions. Instead, it has exposed the vulnerability of our social, political, and economic frameworks. The world feels the urge to return to a pre-pandemic normal, but if we do, we risk returning to the same vulnerable frameworks. Instead, we need to address the inadequacies of our systems and improve moving forward. This was one of the many issues addressed during the Sustainable Development Impact Summit hosted by the World Economic Forum.

As more developing countries adopt artificial intelligence and digital innovation, they create new technical job opportunities. Yet, this reality is severely affected due to the wide gap in access to broadband services. Only half the world’s population has access to internet services. Strict containment measures and online education have left about half of the world’s children—approximately one billion—without access to education. This poses a serious problem for economic growth and leaves marginalized communities out of competition for decent work.

It has been five years since we initiated our path toward achieving the 2030 Agenda. Unfortunately, we cannot accomplish these goals if we continue under current structures. In many developing countries, about 80 percent or more of the labor force earns their livelihood through small- to medium-sized businesses. Yet, these businesses were the first to experience the negative shock of pandemic and shut down. Years of investment and effort to help marginalized individuals gain financial independence have vanished. Jobs generated through these businesses do not have any social safety nets.

As we rebuild, governments and big businesses need to do their part. As businesses try to attain carbon neutrality, governments should put proper social programs and resources in place to rebuild sustainably. Small- to medium-sized businesses should have access to equitable opportunities to compete with the rest of the market fairly. Similarly, big firms have the responsibility share their sustainability practices, and be more “stakeholder” focused.

Customers, employees and suppliers have a responsibility to distinguish and invest in truly “sustainable business” than companies that spend on marketing to claim their sustainability, known as “Corporate Greenwashing”. As we move toward obtaining a more carbon-neutral business model, it is important to obtain metrics to help us move away from corporate greenwashing. International Business Council (IBC) is focusing on developing metrics that are more transparent and use metrics that don’t rely only on finances. These metrics incorporate the environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspect of business performance and risk. The aim of this metric is to address a change from capitalism and move toward a social contract of “Stakeholder Capitalism”. In simple words, a capitalist model that benefits everyone. Businesses should realize that a circular ecosystem is possible. Instead, operating sustainably helps offset social and environmental problems that in long term generates financial burden in millions of dollars.

Ritesh Yadav serves as a 2020-2021 UNA-USA Global Goals Ambassador for SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.