Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

This is a draft of a chapter that has been accepted for publication by Oxford University Press in the forthcoming book “Before the SDGs. A Historical Companion to the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” edited by Martin Gutmann and Daniel Gorman, due for publication in 2021.


Economic growth as well as the struggles for decent work had their origins in the emergence of capitalism. Capitalism, with its logic of competition and accumulation, is an inherently growth-oriented system. And the transition from feudalism to capitalism generated the modern issue of unemployment and labor-capital conflicts. Both the question of economic growth and the struggle for decent work remains highly relevant today, as most of the world population are not getting either of those. This is further complicated by the increasing concern of global warming and climate change because economic growth is usually associated with increased carbon emissions. This chapter reviews the historical patterns of economic growth and capital-labor relations in the last two centuries, and discusses the potentials of the transition to a green growth model addressing the issue related to global labor division, environmental justice, informality, among others.

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