On Monday 25th November 2019, The Daily Nation- A Kenyan local newspaper had the following headline, “Half of Kenyans Earn Below Sh30,000 Every Month.” Surprising right! The feature highlighted the statistics from the Kenya Bureau of Statistics. This feature perhaps dawns the reality that low wage jobs are pervasive and still there are not enough “good jobs” to go around. This centres around the Sustainable Development Goal 8- Decent work and economic growth.
Decent work is employment that “respects the fundamental rights of the human person as well as the rights of the workers in terms of work safety and remuneration, respect for the physical and mental integrity of the worker in the exercise of his/employment.”
The existence of low-wage work is hardly a surprise, but its prevalence is underestimated. Many also misunderstand who these workers are. They are not only students and individuals in their early careers but also adults in their prime working years, and low wage work is the primary way they support their families.
Well, the “Decent Work” agenda is not a new topic. The sustainable development goals advocate for sustained economic growth which cannot be achieved without decent work. The International Labor Organization (ILO) has been promoting decent work standards since 1919 and we have come a long way since. We can say that the workplace is safer and fairer, and part of the population has been lifted out of poverty. But inclusivity is not diversity. With these, there have been widened inequalities in terms of wages. This has prompted most workers to seek extra skills as the muscle needed to increase their wages.
But the conversation cannot end with the assumption that things would be better if workers had more skills. The success of any job seeker is not only dependent on the skills and the level of education but the strength of the economies, employers and the type of jobs available.
Most companies have embraced sustainability, they are doing good to society and earning profits while at it. But sadly some see their employees telling a different tale when it comes to decent growth in terms of their workplace. Perhaps the question we should ask ourselves is what kind of jobs are we generating, do they pay enough to live on and are they diverse and inclusive?
We need new approaches to promote upward economic mobility, to rethink our approaches that promote upward mobility, and some of the fundamentals undergirding social-economic policies. The goal of growing economies should be to support growth that is shared and enduring, increase the productivity of both the firms and the workers and raise the living standards for all.
Nearly half of the employed earn wages that are not enough, on their own, to promote economic security. As policymakers and leaders of the private, social and civic sectors seek to promote more inclusive growth they need to have their employees in mind.
The impact goes far beyond the office. Decent work benefits everyone, not just targets of diversity initiatives; it generates jobs, fosters individuals who are more satisfied with gainful employment and improves connection amongst employees in companies and organizations to run sustainably. All this contributes to economic and social growth.
Decent work should be one that is productive and delivers a fair income, better prospects for personal development and social integration, and exercises equal opportunities and treatment for all women and men.