Interview with Neven Mimica on the topic of Employment and Social Inclusion
How important are employment and social inclusion to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure all people enjoy peace and prosperity. It is an ambitious set of goals to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs have the potential to unleash societies’ true potential and end poverty, once and for all.
If we are to be successful in implementing the SDGs, the goals related to employment and social inclusion will, I believe, be the real barometer of our success. They touch upon and are a precursor to all of the other goals. Employment and social inclusion are fundamental to development, as if people cannot access decent work or the services and resources needed to prosper, inequality and poverty persist.
Employment and social inclusion provide dignity for the individual, stability for the family and peace for the community. This is especially the case for women and girls, as a society can only truly flourish when women and girls are provided access to essential services and opportunities in education and employment. It is estimated that by empowering women, global GDP would increase by nearly 12% by 2030 (an increase of $8.2 trillion USD).
This is why SDG 1, on No Poverty, SDG 8, on Decent Work and Economic Growth, and SDG 10, on Reduced Inequalities, are and will remain key drivers of our cooperation, in line with the new European Consensus on Development.
Ensuring secure employment and a basic income for all is probably the greatest challenge facing globalisation, how is the EU helping developing countries meet this challenge?
Today, there are 1.4 billion workers in vulnerable employment and more than 70% of people are not adequately covered by social protection. These people, and their families, are effectively trapped in a life of poverty.
This is why the EU promotes decent work, which is employment that is secure, pays a fair wage, provides social protection, and respects labour rights and standards, while ensuring gender equality. Moreover, in order for people to have access to essential social services and income, the EU works guarantee a basic level of social protection for everyone, as a right.
While it may be the case that good employment opportunities exist, job seekers may not have the right skills to take advantage of them, this is known as the skills gap. In light of this, the EU is supporting the development of Vocational and Educational Training (VET) systems in many partner countries, so that the skills of workers and job seekers can meet the needs of the labour market.
Expanding social protection coverage is necessary to help people meet their basic needs, across the entire lifecycle, and especially when faced with economic or other shocks. This is why the EU promotes a social protection floor, which ensures access to essential healthcare and wellbeing for children, employment and unemployment assistance and income security for the elderly and for persons with disabilities.
Therefore, social protection, when implemented well and targeted those in need, can be a powerful enabler for creating positive outcomes in employment, education and health.
The rallying cry of the new 2030 Agenda is “leave no one behind”. Given that some groups are particularly marginalised, how can we ensure that everyone benefits from growth and development?
It is simply unacceptable that today, global inequality between people is at its highest level in history. There are still more than 800 million people living in extreme poverty, while 1% of the world’s population control more than 50% of its wealth. Extreme inequality only undermines long-term growth and development. This is why growth should be inclusive and benefit all in society.
Over the past 15 years, economic growth rates have been impressive across most of Africa. However, 40% of the African working youth are still living in poverty. Moreover, the number of young people in Africa is set to double in 30 years, meaning 18 million jobs must be created every year to absorb them into the workforce.
This is why the EU, through its international cooperation and development, is promoting employment and social inclusion to reduce inequalities, particularly between men and women. We are also targeting youth, especially in Africa, so that they can find secure employment and live in dignity.
The EU also works to ensure development works for persons with disabilities, who make up 15% of the world’s population, by ensuring they can take advantage of economic opportunities and access social services. Historically, in many countries, indigenous peoples have faced discrimination and exclusion. This is why the EU is working to support indigenous peoples to improve their livelihoods and their rights, including employment, social and economic rights.
See also: Website of Comissioner Mimica