Highlights Vol 22, No. 02 - February 2018

#SDGLive at Davos: Tech solutions for the global goals

It is clear: everyone has a role to play in advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it is time to accelerate our efforts towards their worldwide realization. During the World Economic Forum in Davos on 23-26 January, the SDG Media Zone honed in on this very topic, bringing together leaders from across sectors to discuss the goals and the imperative of working in partnership to leave no one behind.

On 23 January, UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin joined the SDG Live stage together with Telia’s CEO Johan Dennelind to discuss how innovation and technology can advance the goals and how private sector involvement can be a catalyst for change.

In the session moderated by UN Foundation’s Pratik Desai, Mr. Liu stressed how technology and innovation benefit both developed and developing countries and how they are crucial for SDGs realization. He also urged the private sector and the scientific community to play their part in assuring the success of the goals.

Similarly, Mr. Dennelind stressed the importance of turning awareness of the SDGs into impact, especially in the business and technology sectors. He discussed the work that Telia is doing to promote SDG awareness by incorporating the goals into their business model. For example, they created a Unite program for internal engagement to encourage all Telia employees to be engaged in the SDGs and commit to be active around a specific goal to make a difference. When other businesses take this approach, the importance of the goals is expressed, and awareness will turn into impact that will make a difference.

Mr. Liu discussed the importance of bringing innovative technologies to all countries. He stressed that to achieve economic growth, everyone needs to be brought to the next stage of development. The inequality gap needs to be narrowed and the digital divide needs to be resolved. By developing a strategy that ensures that modern technologies will contribute in positive ways, all people will benefit. Mr. Liu also underscored how the technological development of artificial and robotic intelligence, must be created for the mutual benefit of all people.

Both Mr. Liu and Mr. Dennelind agreed that in a globalized world, we must ensure that in addition to competition, there must be more cooperation if the SDGs are going to be achieved. They also stressed the power of digital technology on the economy and its benefits to societies. If this idea is understood by all relevant stakeholders, barriers to digitalization can be removed and everyone can enjoy the benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Both Mr. Liu and Mr. Dennelind look towards the future with excitement. They see the interest and readiness of governments and the private sector to accelerate innovation and technological advancement to achieve the goals, and are confident that the challenges the world faces can be alleviated when there is collaboration. With everyone ready to play their part for the SDGs, the future of our world is bright.

In addition to participating in the SDG Media Zone, Mr. Liu attended several events during the Forum that highlighted the importance of technology and the SDGs. The meetings discussed a wide variety of topics including the Circular Economy, the Belt and Road Initiative and the Broadband Commission.

For more information:

SDG Media Zone at the World Economic Forum

World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Falling unemployment rates mask deep-rooted challenges

On its surface, the global labour market seems to be headed for a rosy future of decent jobs for all. Unemployment rates are falling across developing and developed countries from Mexico to Germany. In many cases, such as Japan or the Czech Republic, joblessness is at record lows. But a deeper dive into the statistics paints the reality in a much more nuanced and decidedly darker hue.

Close to 200 million people around the world remain unemployed. If they were to form their own country, it would be the 7th most populous in the world. In many cases, even the people who do land a job, can hardly consider themselves lucky. Over 40 per cent of all workers globally are in vulnerable forms of employment and over 40 per cent of workers in low-income countries do not earn enough to keep them above the extreme poverty line.

Women and youth are disturbingly overrepresented among the unemployed. Across many developing countries, women are several times more likely to be jobless than men and face numerous obstacles on their road to the labour market. In Saudi Arabia, for example, 34 per cent of female university graduates were unemployed in the third quarter of 2017, compared to around 7 per cent of their male colleagues. These educated women represented 40 per cent of all Saudi unemployed labour.

Young people are faring even worse. They are around three times as likely to be unemployed than adults and much more likely to be in insecure or short-term work. A whopping three quarters of all working youth are employed in the informal sector, where they lack social protection and receive lower wages. As a result, some 160 million young people around the world live in poverty despite having a job.

These trends are particularly worrying because of their cost to the society at large. Several studies show that an episode of unemployment when young or starting work during a recession have large negative effects on lifetime potential wages and raise the risks of being unemployed or socially excluded in later years. High unemployment rates among young people can also lead to slower development, lack of social trust and social unrest.

Such problems currently do not concern Japan, where it is the employers who struggle to find young workers. In November last year, the country’s unemployment rate reached 2.7 per cent – the lowest in a quarter-century. For every job seeker, there were 1.56 available offers and 86 per cent of the students expected to graduate in March this year have already received a job offer.

But Japan is an exception in a world that appears to have no vacancies left for the rapidly growing cohorts of young people. Even in regions with record low unemployment, such as Eastern Europe, the share of youth among the jobless remains high, approaching 20 per cent in some countries.

Young people’s prospects of finding a job are not made any easier by the demographic trends, which predict a rapid inflow of youth to an already crowded labour market, particularly in developing countries, where 85 per cent of the world’s youth live.

To give their young citizens a fighting chance of finding a job, countries will have to make long‑term investments in their education systems to better match the available jobs with young people’s skills. Supporting entrepreneurship, providing safety nets, employment services and quality apprenticeships can also increase the probability of young people finding decent work. With the deadline for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals looming large, countries will need to redouble their efforts to ensure the future of work does not become a future of unemployment.

Every month UN DESA’s Monthly Briefing on the World Economic Situation and Prospects brings you the latest scoop on the global economy. Find the latest edition here.

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