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SDG Academy

Work and Employment for a Sustainable Future

SDG Academy via edX


National economies have grown substantially since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century yet people have not necessarily seen an increase in opportunities to find decent work or earn a decent income. In fact, in some places, the increased productivity and rising profits associated with automation have directly impacted the availability of decent jobs. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015, and more than 600 million new jobs are needed by 2030 just to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. We also need to improve working conditions for the 780 million women and men who are employed but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. In addressing these core issues we will not only see increasing decent work opportunities but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth.

This course explores the past and future of work in the context of the SDGs, particularly SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. It examines the state of income and employment around the world, barriers to employment, policies to promote economic opportunity, and the future of work in our rapidly changing world. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to achieving the SDGs, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the world can achieve full and productive employment and decent work, for all women and men, by 2030.

This seven-module massive open online course (MOOC) provides an in-depth look at the issues of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. The topics covered include structural shifts in economies and work; informality, gender and child labor, the modern welfare state; the future of work, and more. The course concludes with a special module by the ILO on realizing decent work for all and achieving SDG 8.

This course is for:

Policy professionals who want to understand frameworks for SDG planning

Development practitioners seeking knowledge on goals-based development

Advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in economics, development, and other key concepts related to the SDGs


Module 1: Decent Work for Sustainable Development

  • Introduction to SDG 8
  • Employment, Decent Work and Social Justice for Sustainability
  • Link between Employment, Work, Income and Wealth
  • Measuring Decent Work and SDG 8
  • Implosion Points, Demographic Change, Changing Nature & Locations of Jobs and Incomes

Module 2: Transitions in Employment and Work

  • Structural Shifts in Economies and Work
  • Skill Bias
  • Work in a Post Manufacturing World
  • Macroeconomic Context of Diminishing Returns to Labor
  • Social Democratic Model
  • Disaggregating Productivity Gains
  • Global Perspectives on Changes to Formal Employment ****

Module 3: Challenges of Work: Informality, Gender and Child Labor

  • Informal Employment: Definitions and Debates
  • Global Data: Size, Composition and Characteristics
  • Urban Informal Self-Employment
  • Informal Self Employment: Informal Enterprises
  • Informal Self Employment: Dependent Contractors
  • Challenges for Policy for Informal Workers and Enterprises
  • Formalization and Decent Work
  • Women in the Informal Workforce
  • Child Labor
  • Case Study: Modern Slavery and Children

Module 4: Current Policy Responses

  • Tracing the Rise of a Modern Welfare State
  • Features of a Modern Welfare State
  • New Policy Instruments
  • Developing Policies for the Education to Work Pipeline

Module 5: Structural and Institutional Models for the Future of Work

  • The New Dilemma of Development
  • The Knowledge Economy and Its Future
  • Labor and Capital
  • Finance and the Real Economy
  • The Capable Agent: Education

Module 6: Future of Jobs and Work

  • Automation, Work and Wellbeing
  • The Political Economy of Automation
  • Skills and the Jobs of the Future
  • Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work
  • Challenge and Opportunities for Stable Inclusive Societies

Module 7: Special Module in Partnership with the ILO: Achieving SDG 8 and Realizing Decent Work for All

  • Promoting Full and Productive Employment
  • A Transformative Agenda for Gender Equality at Work
  • International Labour Standards
  • Labor Market Governance and Social Dialogue in the Face of Rapid Changes
  • Policies to Realize the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
  • Universal, Adequate and Comprehensive Social Protection

Taught by

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Jeemol Unni, Martha Chen, Kailash Satyarthi, Bo Rothstein, Roberto Unger, Carl Frey, Guy Ryder, Rafael Diez de Medina, Ritash Sarna, Valeria Esquivel, Umberto Cattaneo, Ellen Schewior, Irini Proios Torras, Tim de Meyer and Vera Perdigao-Paquete


4.8 rating at edX based on 6 ratings

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