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Economic development, social protection policies and labour market institutions have brought improvements in decent work in many parts of the world. Current development models and economic activity, however, threaten environmental stability through climate change, soil degradation, biodiversity loss, air and water pollution, eutrophication and other forms of environmental degradation.
Key Findings for Environmental Sustainability
Across the world between 1999 and 2015, GDP grew by almost 80 per cent, real wages improved by 42 per cent, child labour fell and female labour force participation increased. Under certain thresholds, working poverty also fell. Yet, despite this progress, inequality has risen.
Between 2000 and 2012, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which cause climate change, increased by 33 per cent worldwide, and, between 2000 and 2013, material extraction increased by 62 per cent. This resource- and carbon-intensive model of economic activity has put pressure on the environment, with the result that economic activity today is unsustainable.
Some 23 countries have decoupled economic growth from GHG emissions as a result of the increased use of renewable energy, carbon pricing, green product subsidies and green jobs, among other policies. Environmental sustainability can be achieved alongside the advancement of decent work.
Some 1.2 billion jobs, or 40 per cent of total world employment, most of which are in Africa and Asia and the Pacific, depend directly on ecosystem services, and jobs everywhere are dependent on a stable environment. Every year, on average, natural disasters caused or exacerbated by humanity result in the loss of 23 million working-life years or the equivalent of 0.8 per cent of a year’s work. Even in a scenario of effective climate change mitigation, temperature increases resulting from climate change will lead to the loss of the equivalent of
72 million full-time jobs by 2030 due to heat stress. Developing countries and the most vulnerable population groups are most exposed to these impacts.
Global and local environmental degradation threaten jobs and worsen working conditions, especially in developing countries and among women and the world’s most vulnerable people (including migrant workers, people in poverty and indigenous and tribal peoples), making environmental sustainability an issue of social justice.
Because many industries bring adverse spillover effects on ecosystem services, it is necessary to ask whether jobs that produce negative externalities and affect other workers can, in fact, be considered decent jobs.
Progress Towards Decent Work is Compatible with Environmental Sustainability
From the perspective of the world of work, environmental sustainability is also an issue of social justice. Environmental degradation, in its many forms, limits the right of workers to work. It widens inequalities, as women and the most vulnerable workers (particularly migrants, people in poverty, and indigenous and tribal peoples) are most affected by environmental degradation.
The text is from the World Employment and Social Outlook 2018, Greening with jobs, International Labour Office – Geneva: ILO, 2018
Lucubrate Magazine December 2019
The picture on the top of the article: Woraphon, Adobe Stock