Decent Work & Economic Growth

UN DEVELOPMENT SUSTAINABLE GOAL: Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries.

Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the average growth of the global economy had already slowed. The pandemic has caused the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression and has had a massive impact on working times and incomes. In 2020, 8.8 per cent of global working hours were lost compared to the figure for the fourth quarter of 2019, which is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs and approximately four times greater than the hours lost during the global financial crisis in 2009. Young people and women in the workforce were hit particularly hard by the crisis in the labour market. The global economy is slowly recovering, although activity may remain below pre-pandemic levels for a prolonged period.

Following average growth of about 2 per cent from 2014 to 2018, global real GDP per capita increased by only 1.3 per cent in 2019 and is estimated to have declined by 5.3 per cent in 2020 owing to the pandemic. Global real GDP per capita is projected to increase again by 3.6 per cent in 2021 and 2.6 per cent in 2022.

The real GDP of the least developed countries increased by 4.8 per cent in 2019 and is estimated to have fallen by 1.3 per cent in 2020 because of the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Before the onset of the pandemic, informal employment accounted for 60.2 per cent of global employment, equivalent to 2 billion people with informal jobs characterized by a lack of basic protection, including social protection coverage. More than three quarters, 1.6 billion informal workers, were significantly affected by the pandemic-related lockdown measures or were working in the sectors hardest hit.

They are at high risk of falling into poverty and will experience greater challenges in regaining their livelihoods during the recovery.

The median gender pay gap in countries and territories with data from around 2017 is close to 12 per cent, indicating that women’s hourly earnings are an average of 12 per cent lower than those of men in half of all countries and territories with data. However, this gender pay gap is an approximate calculation based on average hourly earnings without controlling for sector, occupation, educational level or work experience. In a global study, the International Labour Organization identified a factor-weighted gender pay gap of 19 per cent. In 87 per cent of countries and territories with recent data, professionals earn more than double that of workers in elementary occupations per hour on average.

Global unemployment increased by 33 million in 2020, with the unemployment rate increasing by 1.1 percentage points to 6.5 per cent. However, unemployment figures reflect only a small proportion of the jobs lost as a result of the pandemic. A further 81 million people were not actively seeking employment or were simply unable to find employment owing to the COVID-19-related restrictions. Young people and women were particularly hard hit by the crisis, with employment losses in 2020 of 8.7 and 5 per cent, respectively, compared to 3.7 per cent for all adults and 3.9 per cent for men.

In 2019, more than one in five of the world’s young people were not in employment, education or training, a proportion almost unchanged since 2005. Quarterly figures indicate that the rate increased from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2020 in 42 out of 49 countries and territories with data. As young women were already twice as likely as young men not to be in employment, education or training, and as women have been forced into inactivity disproportionately during the pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis is likely to worsen the gender gap among young people not in employment, education or training.

The level of national compliance with the fundamental labour rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining changed little between 2015 and 2018.

Global GDP from tourism increased at a higher rate than the rest of the economy over the decade preceding 2019 to account for 4.1 per cent of global GDP in 2019, compared to 3.7 per cent in 2008. However, as one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, a reversal in this trend is expected for 2020 and the coming years. Globally, international arrivals decreased by 74 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019, which represents a loss of $1.3 trillion in inbound tourism expenditure, more than 11 times the loss resulting from the 2009 global crisis. An estimated 100 to 120 million tourism jobs are at risk because of the pandemic, with a disproportionate effect on women. While the tourism sectors of virtually all countries and territories in the world are affected, the small island developing States suffer most acutely.

Globally, the number of automated teller machines per 100,000 adults rose by more than 50 per cent during the past decade, from 45 in 2010 to 69 in 2019. However, there was a slight reversal in the trend for commercial bank branches, with the number of branches in 2019 marginally lower than that recorded in 2010.

In 2019, aid for trade commitments decreased by 6 per cent to $53 billion on the basis of current prices. The sectors most represented were energy (27.9 per cent of total aid for trade), transport and storage (22.6 per cent) and agriculture (17.8 per cent).

In 2020, almost one third of the 107 countries and territories with data had formulated and operationalized a youth employment strategy, while 44 (41.1 per cent) had such strategies but did not provide conclusive evidence of their implementation, and just under one quarter (24.3 per cent) were in the process of developing a strategy.


UN Sustainable Development Goals

Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals – E/2021/58

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