More from UN DESA Vol 25, No. 11 - November 2021

Post-pandemic industrial policy: what will it look like?

Ever since the financial crisis over ten years ago, countries and local governments have been warming up to the idea of stimulating economies and creating jobs by generating solutions for climate change and the environmental breakdown. But these ideas had been slow to start and far from widespread. Can the recovery from the pandemic change all that?

There are signs that the sheer scale of the pandemic’s impacts has started to break inertia in policymaking. Industrial policy in particular is seeing a revival as governments face the balancing act of securing economic recovery, addressing deep inequalities magnified by the crisis, ensuring the transition to a low-carbon economy and adapting to climate change – all at the same time.

While much can be learned from past successes and failures, in many ways post-pandemic industrial policy is moving into uncharted waters as it attempts to reconcile ecological, social and economic ambitions against a backdrop of fast technological change.

What needs to fundamentally change in this new generation of industrial policy? How can countries harness rather than be threatened by disruptive technologies? How can they achieve diversification and resilience in supply chains? What should industrial policy include beyond manufacturing? And what lessons can we learn from pre-pandemic industrial policy?

These are some of the questions that will be discussed by some of the world’s leading experts on development – members of the UN Committee for Development Policy (CDP) José Antonio Ocampo, Adriana Abdenur, Ha-Joon Chang, Arunabha Ghosh and Kori Udovički. They will be joined by the UN DESA Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development and Chief Economist of the UN Elliott Harris and Smeeta Fokeer of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Join us on 17 November, from 8:15-9:45 am New York/ET

Register at or watch the event live on our Facebook page.

New training toolkit to support public servants in SDG delivery

Public servants play a key role in our global efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They provide health care, education, water and sanitation and other key services to our societies. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the crucial and life-sustaining role public servants play even more visible. Without them the SDGs cannot be achieved.

But many public servants lack the sufficient resources to be trained on the goals. To remedy the situation, UN DESA has launched a Curriculum on Governance for the SDGs that promotes critical understanding of sustainable development issues, enhances governance capacity, and strengthens public servants’ awareness of their active role in contributing to SDG implementation.

The Curriculum is a set of Training of Trainers Toolkits, which contain ready-to-use and customizable training material on key governance measures needed to make the SDGs a reality. It provides methodologies and approaches to advance knowledge and assist governments in developing capacities to drive the transformational change needed.

The Curriculum consists of several Toolkits on key topics such as changing mindsets in public institutions to implement the 2030 Agenda; transparency, accountability and ethics in public institutions; effective national to local public governance for SDG implementation; government innovation for social inclusion of vulnerable groups and risk-informed governance and innovative technologies for disaster risk reduction and resilience.

The Curriculum was designed and produced through the active engagement of governments and schools of public administration. Experts from across UN DESA Divisions and Offices have also contributed. The Toolkits are intended to be used in interactive, results-oriented and engaging training courses. They can be used for a five-day face-to-face training workshop or selected modules can be used for shorter trainings. Modules from various toolkits can be combined based on a country’s needs.

The Curriculum is available free of charge at the UN Public Administration Network (UNPAN) website.

This was our year: UN DESA Annual Highlights 2020-2021

2020 and 2021 brought unprecedented challenges to people and societies all over the world. The COVID-19 pandemic unfurled a cascade of global health, social, and economic shocks, intensifying the need for transformative change.

UN DESA aimed to accelerate this change, supporting governments to shape an inclusive recovery from the crisis and to get back on track to realize the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Coming this week, UN DESA Annual Highlights 2020-2021 provides a glimpse of our efforts.

Over the course of the year, UN DESA helped Member States to effectively evaluate their progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), by supporting the High-level Political Forum and other critical mechanisms focused on achieving sustainable development for all.

Experts in the Department launched a series of ambitious policy recommendations to finance pandemic response and recovery and transition to more sustainable economies and societies. This work informed public infrastructure investment, addressed means of curbing illicit financial flows, supported international tax cooperation, and mobilized private investment for sustainable development.

UN DESA facilitated efforts within the statistical community to agree on a complement to the GDP, making nature count through the System for Environmental-Economic Accounting. We promoted the role of science, technology, and innovation to shape inclusive, resilient, and sustainable recovery and development.

We backed the capacity needs of Member States in shaping effective social protection policies and supported countries to strengthen their public institutions and services in the recovery efforts.

The Department also helped nations protect livelihoods and our planet through our support to the High-level Dialogue on Energy, the Second Global Sustainable Transport Conference and the United Nations Forum on Forests, among others.

With the 2030 Agenda as the cornerstone of our efforts, UN DESA will continue to support the international community to take the bold actions that we need today, to ensure a better and fairer tomorrow.

Now hiring? The twin problem of today’s labour market

The COVID‑19 global pandemic outbreak in 2020 sent an unprecedented shockwave across labour markets worldwide, shooting up unemployment to alarming heights. As the global economy gradually rebounds, millions are still trapped in joblessness while at the same time many developed economies struggle to fill job vacancies. How can both be happening at the same time?

Although the global economy has been gradually recovering, the speed of job creation is generally lagging. Many regions are facing the prospect of an economic recovery accompanied by protracted high rates of unemployment and increases in informality.

Moreover, many developed economies, including Australia, Canada and the United States, and numerous economies in Europe, are confronted with acute labour shortages even as some of those countries still have unemployment rates above the pre-pandemic level. These labour shortages are not only holding back recovery from the crisis, but are also damaging the longer-run growth prospects.

This seemingly paradoxical situation is being triggered by a number of factors happening at the same time. An unbalanced rebound of the global economy across different sectors and changes in the composition of demand are causing rapid shifts in the demand for labour. In other words, the jobs wiped out by the pandemic are not necessarily the same ones that are hiring today.

The pandemic has also changed the pattern of labour supply. Among many other factors, the risks posed by COVID-19 made many occupations much less attractive for workers. In Europe, one of the reasons for the persistent worker shortages is also the ageing population.

This shortage of workers faced by numerous industries around the world may lead to different economic scenarios. In some cases, it may lead to increased productivity as companies invest more in capital-intensive technologies.

A more positive scenario would entail the development and implementation of policies to address the twin problem of elevated unemployment and acute labour shortages, including increases in wages, especially for the lower-skilled jobs, investment into safer workplace and better working conditions, such as flexible work hours and options to work remotely.

Mitigating the entrenched mismatches between labour supply and demand will require economic policymakers to develop and implement active labour market policies, such as profound analysis of labour market trends, training and placement, matchmaking between companies and jobseekers, provision of tax incentives for companies expanding their workforce, and expansion of public employment services.

Find out more in the November Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects.

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