Human Development Report 2015 – Work for Human Development [UNDP]

Human Development Report 2015 – Work for Human Development
UNDP – 2015
eISBN: 978-92-1-057615-4 :: 288 pages
Report pdf:
Twenty five years ago the first Human Development Report in 1990 began with a simple notion: that development is about enlarging people’s choices—focusing broadly on the richness of human lives rather than narrowly on the richness of economies. Work is a major foundation for both the richness of economies and the richness of human lives but has tended to be conceptualized in economic terms rather than in human development terms. The 2015 Human Development Report goes beyond that convention in directly linking work to the richness of human lives.

This Report starts with a fundamental question—how can work enhance human development? The Report takes a broad view of work, going beyond jobs and taking into account such activities as unpaid care work, voluntary work and creative work—all of which contribute to the richness of human lives.

The Report highlights impressive progress on human development over the past quarter century. Today people are living longer, more children are in school and more people have access to clean water and basic sanitation. Per capita income in the world has gone up, and poverty has gone down, resulting in a better standard of living for many people. The digital revolution has connected people across countries and societies. Work has contributed to this progress by building people’s capabilities. Decent work has provided people with a sense of dignity and an opportunity to engage fully in society.

Considerable challenges remain, from persistent poverty and grinding inequalities to climate change and environmental sustainability in general, and to conflict and instability. These all create barriers to people fully engaging in decent work, and as a result huge amounts of human potential remain untapped. This is of particular concern for young people, women, people with disabilities and others who may be marginalized. The Report argues that if the potential of all people is harnessed through appropriate strategies and proper policies, human progress would be accelerated and human development deficits would be reduced.

The Report reminds us that there is no automatic link between work and human development.  The quality of work is an important dimension of ensuring that work enhances human development. Issues such as discrimination and violence, however, prevent positive links between work and human development. Some work is very damaging to human development, such as child labour, forced labour and the labour of trafficked workers, all of which constitute serious violations of human rights. In many cases workers in hazardous conditions face serious risks of abuse, insecurity and loss of freedom and autonomy.

All these issues are becoming even more critical to address as the world of work, driven by globalization and technological revolution, is undergoing rapid changes. Globalization has generated gains for some and losses for others. The digital revolution has created new opportunities, but has also given rise to new challenges, such as irregular contracts and short-term work, which are asymmetrically distributed between highly skilled and unskilled workers.

The Report makes a strong case that women are disadvantaged in the world of work—in both paid and unpaid work. In the realm of paid work, they are engaged in the workforce less than men, they earn less, their work tends to be more vulnerable and they are underrepresented in senior management and decision-making positions. In terms of unpaid work, they bear a disproportionate share of the housework and care work.

The Report identifies sustainable work, which promotes human development while reducing and eliminating negative side effects and unintended consequences, as a major building block of sustainable development. Such work would expand opportunities for the present generation without shrinking those for future ones.

The Report argues that enhancing human development through work requires policies and strategies in three broad areas—creating work opportunities, ensuring workers’ well-being and developing targeted actions. The first area focuses on national employment strategies and seizing opportunities in the changing world of work, while the second area covers such important issues as guaranteeing workers’ rights and benefits, expanding social protection and addressing inequalities. Targeted actions should focus on sustainable work, addressing imbalances in paid and unpaid work and interventions for specific groups—for example, for youth and people with disabilities. Above all, there needs to be an agenda for action pursuing a New Social Contract, a Global Deal, and the Decent Work Agenda.

This year’s Report is particularly timely, following shortly after the UN Sustainable Development Summit, where the new Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, including Goal 8’s explicit emphasis on work: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all.

In this context there should be serious discussion about the challenges created by the ongoing changes in the world of work. Opportunities should be taken to strengthen the links between work and human development. During the past 25 years the human development concept, reports and indices have generated considerable debate, dialogue and discussions around the world on development challenges and policy issues. I expect this year’s report to be no exception in its capacity to generate dialogue and debate around the concept of human development and strategies to advance it.
Helen Clark
United Nations Development Programme

Helen Clark: Speech at the launch of the 2015 Human Development Report
Jan 18, 2016
Palais des Nations – Geneva, Switzerland