The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of goals that meet the urgent environmental, political, social and economic challenges facing our world. Utilising The Salvation Army’s International Social Justice Commission’s SDG publication Go and Do Something, we have created easy to read focus articles looking at each SDG from an Australian, Salvation Army perspective. These articles explore how each SDG affects us locally, and include practical tips of how you can get involved. We hope this tool will be of benefit to you as you seek to partner with God in bringing about his Kingdom.
Sustainable Development Goal 8: PROMOTE SUSTAINED, INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH, FULL AND PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT AND DECENT WORK FOR ALL
- Sustain economic growth in accordance with national circumstances. Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation.
- Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.
- Eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and end child labour.
- Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers and those in precarious employment.
Many injustices globally can be traced back to “unequal access to fair, inclusive employment and economic growth”, forcing many into unsafe work like trafficking, criminal activity, illegal trade and forced labour which prohibit growth and safety.
Slavery today is more widespread than it has been at any time in human history with approximately 40.3 million men, women and children believed to be experiencing slavery . In 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that there were 4,300 people in Australia living in modern slavery, sometimes hidden behind closed doors and sometimes in plain sight. The prevalence of modern slavery in Australia may seem low, but because of the interconnectedness of our world today, purchases and lifestyle choices made in Australia contribute to exploitative practices and slavery around the world. 66% of the world’s forced labour is exploited in the Asia Pacific, which is a main exporter of raw materials and products to Australia.
Australia has introduced legislation to Parliament in mid-2018 to enact a Commonwealth Modern Slavery Act. This Act will be implemented and enforced no earlier than the end of 2019. It will establish a Modern Slavery Reporting Requirement for Australian Businesses, which will result in greater transparency for consumers to be able to see policies and practices of businesses and companies along their supply chain. This will make it much easier for everyday people to make informed decisions about what they buy and who they buy from.
One area this will impact in Australia will be seasonal work, such as snow workers and agricultural workers. Many are attracted to Australia for such work, however some operators and employers do not hire seasonal workers through appropriate channels, such as the ‘Seasonal Worker Programme’ which protects worker rights. Not going through the appropriate channels sometimes results in workers being treated unfairly, and not receiving what they were initially promised. While this is not necessarily considered slavery or trafficking, it is dangerous and unacceptable. The Modern Slavery Act will hopefully end these unfair practices.
While a lot of Australians are considered to be in a comfortable financial position, there are many who are struggling financially. Income inequality in Australia shows the top 20% of earners receive 5 times more than the bottom 20%. In addition to this, there is still a significant gender pay gap in Australia, with women earning, on average, 15.3% less than men (based on average full-time weekly wages) . There is a lack of entry-level positions for those who need them in Australia.
On a positive note, the unemployment rate in Australia (as of March 2018) is approximately 5.5% which is quite low, however when we look at unemployment by demographic, the current youth unemployment rate is 11.6%, showing that we still have work to do in this area.  Australia has put programs in place to assist people in finding work, as well as having implemented legislation (e.g. fair work and disability discrimination Act) to ensure workplaces are safe and maintain decent working conditions in relation to tasks, environment and pay – though this doesn’t always protect all people.
Australia’s public debt in relation to GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in recent years has risen, but according to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is expected to start falling given the government’s proposals in the recent federal budget. The OECD also states that Australia’s economy will continue growing at a pace of roughly 3%. While it is good that our economy is predicted to grow, we need to ensure that as a nation we do not become greedy, but instead ensure that the growth benefits all Australians and continues to work towards achieving other Sustainable Development Goals and upholding human rights.
Proverbs 22:16 says, “One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty”. When we are not working toward sustainable and inclusive economic growth as individuals and countries, and instead using and exploiting people to make more money for ourselves, no one will benefit. But, when we work towards inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and empower people through safe and fair working conditions and pay, we will all benefit economically in the long term.
What can we do?
- Avoid buying products that have been made using exploitative practices. Look for ethical and sustainable labels such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance – see our Shopping Ethically section for more information. Get an idea of how many people your lifestyle effects and potentially exploits people by completing the survey here.
- Advocate to companies and brands you regularly shop with to make sure their practices and policies ensure no one is exploited along the supply chain. You may be able to find out how they are going with Baptist World Aid’s “Ethical Fashion Guide” available here.
- Become more informed about slavery in Australia here.
- Voice your opinion about equal pay for equal work and for decent working conditions. You could use social media and/or contact your local MP (find out how here).
- Commit this SDG to prayer both individually and as a Corps
– Thank God for innovations that allow our economy to develop and for jobs to improve.
– Thank God for the skills and talents he has given us and others to make breakthroughs in industries.
– Pray for an end to all forms of abuse and exploitation in the workplace, including forced labour, unfair pay, and poor working conditions. Pray for peace and decent work for all people.
– Ask God to work in the lives of people who carry out abuse, that God will soften their hearts and transform their lives.
– Pray for those who have been abused, and still are being abused. Ask God to help them to find a way out of their situation and into the life God has planned for them.
For more reading on The Salvation Army’s thoughts around SDG 8, see the International Social Justice Commission’s Go and Do Something publication.
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