SDGs for recovery and resilience: The consequences of Covid-19 crisis could have been softened if countries had further advanced on the 2030 Agenda

The ITUC/TUDCN has published three studies on governments’ responses to the Covid-19 crisis in Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as their alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular Goal 8.

Entitled SDG for recovery and resilience, each study provides a general assessment of the situation in the covered regions, complemented by an in-depth analysis of selected country cases: Kenya and Senegal for Africa; Brazil and the Dominican Republic for the Americas; and Pakistan and Nepal for Asia-Pacific. The studies conclude with a series of key recommendations for governments and donors of international cooperation.

The studies, based on the ITUC Global Monitor on SDG 8, show that if the world had truly invested in implementing the 2030 Agenda, and SDG 8 in particular, the consequences of Covid-19 would not have been as dramatic as they have been and continue to be.

Africa: The continent may have avoided the worst health consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic, but the immediate impact on its economies has been sharp and deep, leaving countries with surging price inflation and increased debt burden. On the labour front, the ITUC SDG 8 Global Monitor shows that Africa has the lowest “SDG 8 score” in the world, with a particular impact on women workers, young people, and those in the informal economy.

Trade unions call on African governments to prioritise policies that increase economic growth and create decent and productive employment by, for instance, focusing on investments in the care economy, digitalisation, and vocational training to guarantee decent, climate-friendly jobs that can lift millions of workers out of informality and poverty. International donors must urgently increase development aid to 0.7% of their gross national income and provide support for African domestic resource mobilisation through progressive taxation and measures to stop the drying up of African economies, such as international cooperation to combat tax evasion and profit shifting, and illicit financial flows.

Asia-Pacific: The region is still reeling from the pandemic, while inequalities within and between countries have increased against the backdrop of a continuing decent work deficit. Data from the ITUC Global Monitor on SDG 8 show that Asia-Pacific is performing below the world average on economic wellbeing, employment quality, labour vulnerability and labour rights. The situation regarding labour rights is particularly alarming, with 21 out of the 25 countries ranking below world average.

Trade unions’ recommendations to governments include using the 2030 Agenda as a guide for the region to ensure a sustainable recovery for all, underpinned by a genuine commitment to social dialogue and fundamental labour rights. With regards to international donors, trade unions call for placing SDG 8 at the centre of development cooperation policies to bring to life the four pillars of the Decent Work Agenda – social dialogue, social protection, rights at work and employment.

Latin America and the Caribbean: Although short-term policies adopted to tackle the pandemic cushioned its impact, these could not prevent a worsening of structural problems such as inequalities, poverty, and lack of decent employment. The crisis has also exacerbated the massive challenges already faced by Latin American governments in meeting the goals of the 2030 Agenda, with SDG 8 suffering serious setbacks. The region ranks fourth in the ITUC Global Monitor of SDG8. Although it scores better than Asia-Pacific and Africa, Latin America lags behind especially in terms of inequality of income and increasing employment vulnerability.

Trade unions call on governments in the region to invest in a genuine socio-economic transformation, based on decent work for all with guaranteed living wages and accompanied by just transition measures and universal social protection systems. Unions also urge international donors to include the labour dimension in the eligibility criteria of ODA and to target aid towards integrating informal workers into the formal economy and strengthening social protection systems.