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Trade unions call for a ‘new social contract’ in pursuit of the SDGs

Trade unions are calling for a ‘New Social Contract’ to revitalise progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Addressing widespread insufficiencies, they urge the creation of more sustainable jobs and skills training, universal access to decent work and social protections, and the implementation of policies that uphold equality and fight vulnerability.

A recent report by the Trade Union Development Cooperation Network (TUDCN) ‘A Trade Union Take on the SDGs’ highlights that trade unions continue to be left out of decision-making around SDG progress. The report overviews 12 countries: Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Lithuania, Maldives, Peru, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Venezuela. Across all countries, a key pattern was limited transparency, consultation, and social dialogue structures.

Assessing progress on the SDGs 

The SDGs are a list of 17 goals adopted by United Nations members in 2015 to achieve global peace and sustainability. Amid mounting global challenges – from economic inequalities to climate change and the enduring impacts of the Covid pandemic – achieving these goals is crucial. However, many countries are struggling to meet the targets.

The TUDCN summarised key observations on international progress in economic wellbeing, employment, and labour rights:

  • Inequality in wealth distribution remains a prominent issue in both low-income and high-income nations.
  • Regarding quality of employment, some improvement has been made in areas such as unemployment and underemployment. However, many countries have seen hindered development since the COVID-19 pandemic, and evidence of a gender pay gap remains widespread.
  • Vulnerable work also remains a challenge in some countries and is in fact worsening in places such as Bangladesh.
  • Variation in the protection of labour rights illustrates the widespread obstacles to achieving decent work internationally. For example, 7 countries including Rwanda and Chile still had reports of child labour.

Workers voice 

This timely report highlights the vital significance of social dialogue to engage civil society groups, combat inequality, and achieve successful development. With glaring gaps in labour rights and economic wellbeing, recognising workers’ voices amid global challenges is crucial to ensure meaningful progress in achieving the goals.

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