Jobs and the Future of Work

Extreme poverty has halved since 1990. Here's what's needed to defeat it entirely

Ndeye Astou Fall, 22, works at a call centre in Senegal's capital Dakar, June 23, 2006.

Governments around the world need to boost the number of quality jobs, a new report finds. Image: REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Rosamond Hutt
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Future of Work

Unless governments do more to improve the quality of jobs, the UN’s goal of ending poverty by 2030 will not be met, a new report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) finds.

While significant progress has been made, the ILO’s World Employment Social Outlook report for 2016 warns that without investment in the creation of quality jobs that provide better social protection such as health and welfare benefits it will not be possible to reduce poverty in a lasting way.

 Working poverty rates total and by status, 2012
Image: ILO

What will it take to end poverty?

Extreme poverty rates have halved since 1990, when initial international commitments to reduce poverty were undertaken.

Nearly 2 billion people – around 36% of the emerging and developing world’s population – live on less than the “moderate poverty threshold” of $3.90 a day. Currently though, many of the world’s poor have jobs: they’re just badly paid, in low-skilled occupations, and without basic social protections.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in September 2015, include ending poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030.

To achieve this goal, incomes would need to increase to at least $3.10 per day, which would cost a total of $10trn by 2030, the ILO report says.

The cost to end poverty
Image: ILO

Poverty increasing in developed countries

Although there have been dramatic improvements in countries such as China and much of Latin America, poverty remains “stubbornly high” in parts of Asia and in Africa (where 64% live in extreme or moderate poverty).

 Poverty reduction in Africa lags other regions.
Image: World Bank

The report revealed that an increase in poverty has been recorded in developed countries, especially in Europe. It estimated that, in 2012, over 300 million people in developed countries were living in poverty. Also, in developed countries where quality jobs are hard to come by, there is growing anxiety among middle-class families about their ability to maintain their incomes.

Similarly, the recent worsening of economic prospects in Asia, Latin America, the Arab region and countries rich in natural resources has begun to expose the fragility of the recent employment and social advances, according to the report.

Already, in a number of these countries, income inequality has begun to rise after being in decline for decades. “A reversal of some of the progress made to date in tackling poverty is not inconceivable,” the report says.

Women, and particularly children, are most affected by poverty. In emerging and developing countries, more than half of all children under the age of 15 live in extreme or moderate poverty, while in developed countries, 36% of all children live below the relative poverty line. Even where progress has been made, “gains remain fragile”, the report warns.

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