SDG #8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth

Author: David King

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2015 and, ever since, have been an integral part of the UN’s focus on what the world needs to accomplish by 2030. The public communication includes a logo for each of the 17 goals.

It is worthwhile for citizens to explore each of the goals. Some explorers may find provocation in each one of them, and it is a good thing that we are challenged to explore what is and what could be.

I am immediately challenged by Goal #8, because I am challenged by the logo attached to the Goal, even before I read any of the commentary.

The logo represents the goal in terms of an upward pointing graph such as we use to plot the ‘progress’ of the Toronto Stock Exchange, or the increase throughput of the coal-mining industry.

An increasing number of economists, especially young economists, and including an increasing number of women economists, are making a strong case that our economic future is not a matter of ‘growth’ – not a matter of more —  but a matter of ‘better’ and of doing well with less. Better stewardship, better distribution systems, better collaboration, a greater commitment to economic justice.

Perhaps the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has chastened us about our economic outlook. Many, many Canadians have discovered that they are much closer to financial crisis than they thought. Right now, the ‘more’ they feel they need is not more material goods: it is more security. It is not more private wealth: it is more commonwealth. Our neighbours to the south are discovering that private healthcare is not a robust alternative to public healthcare if the private healthcare disappears with unemployment.

Taken together, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are important. Among the 17, Goal #8 is perhaps most urgently in need of reconsideration. A link below will take readers to a New Yorker article: Can we have prosperity without growth?

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