David Cameron has been given the task of leading the global debate on what international development targets should replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) once they expire in 2015. Take this slice of inspiration from a piece he penned for the Wall Street Journal earlier this month:
It is only when people can get a job and a voice that they can take control of their own destiny and a build a future free from poverty.
I totally agree. So what is his own Department for International Development (DFID) doing to give people in the developing world a job and voice at work? Nothing much at all if you read DFID’s latest annual report.
Unlike most of the MDG targets, DFID doesn’t bother to report on the Decent Work one to ‘achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people’. This is a tragedy given that the ‘Decent Work’ MDG is arguably the most off track, facing a ‘very large deficit’ across all of Africa and in six out of nine of the listed world regions.
And the case for poverty eliminating decent jobs is compelling. The World Bank crunched the numbers in its latest Jobs report to back up the already obvious conclusions that (at pages 80 to 81): ‘jobs are the most important source of household income’, and the key driver for ‘taking households out of poverty, especially in developing countries’.
DFID also doesn’t bother to report on any work to increase women’s share of paid employment, a key indicator under MDG 3 on promoting gender equality and empowering women that remains a ‘distant target’ (page 22) for women in many regions of the world.
To be fair, DFID does do some good work on job creation (which could be far more ambitious), so why doesn’t it report on it? I think there are three reasons:
Firstly, former DFID Minister Andrew Mitchell apparently gave his civil servants very little time to come up with departmental targets. They were forced to pick the easy ones, like access to microcredit (see DFID is measuring the wrong thing on poverrty reduction) rather than more difficult but meaningful ones like employment creation.
Secondly, officials cite the ‘data challenge’ of measuring decent jobs and therefore devising policies to create them. I think this barrier is overstated (and will blog about it in the coming weeks). And it’s a barrier that DFID and the European Commission happily leap over when claiming with precision that a particular trade deal with create X number of quality jobs.
The third reason is probably the toughest to overcome. Cameron and co are convinced that reducing barriers to business is enough to create jobs… a strategy that has long worn thin in Britain.
And what about giving people a voice ‘to take control of their own destiny and build a future free from poverty’? Well people can advance those poetic and noble aims as long as it isn’t through a trade union. As we wrote in A decent job? our report assessing DFID’s contribution towards achieving Decent Work (page 22):
… DFID provides almost no support to trade unions… Unlike the UK, 18 other donor governments provide funding to national union bodies to support trade union development cooperation according to an ITUC survey conducted in 2011.
In the coming months unions, including the TUC, will be stepping up our efforts to get global development targets on jobs and social protection. Check out the ITUC’s new page on the post-2015 development framework.