The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the UN signatory countries to fulfil developmental targets for 2015-2030, as an extension of the Millennium Development Goals. SDG1 is “To end poverty in all its forms, everywhere”.
Policymakers face a challenge to ensure basic subsistence incomes as:
1. Inequality is rising around the globe, more troublingly in economies of China and India, which contain nearly 4 out of every 10 people on earth.
2. Global slowdown has resulted in stagnation of wages. Moreover, the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and automation will result in loss of several blue-collar jobs, further threatening income security.
3. Ensuing backlash against globalization threatens further job losses and decreased cross-border capital flows and investment.
4. Inability to provide basic subsistence incomes has far-reaching repercussions on food security, health as well as education, leading to worsening social indicators over time. This results in a vicious cycle.
5. Overdependence of a few nations on select commodities such as oil results in crisis situations when those commodities face cyclical downturns or readjustment. The inhabitants of those countries suffer from unemployment and high inflation, thus perpetuating poverty. E.g: Venezuela.
6. Female Labour Force Participation Rate still languishes at 57%, essentially meaning that nearly every second woman of working age is unemployed. Lack of suitable formal sector jobs for females, therefore, is essential to ensure subsistence income to families.
7. 2 billion people lack financial inclusion and nearly 50% adults in the poorest households are unbanked. This deprives them of formal credit, as well as government benefits, since non-cash transfers are highly prone to leakages. E.g: Leakages in Public Distribution System for foodgrains and kerosene in India.
8. Increasing frequency of climate-change related issues such as submergence of small islands and coastal cities, and increased frequency of extreme weather events leads to uprooting of thousands of livelihoods in an instant.
9. The spread of extremist ideologies and terrorism threatens the security of individuals and puts the victim countries in disarray, jeopardizing jobs and incomes. Moreover, the constant need to maintain armed forces to prevent cross-border terror shifts expenditure away from social welfare.
10. The presence of parallel black economies results in employment of millions of people in unorganized sectors, where they are highly dependent on cash and lack the welfare benefits.
What needs to be done to ensure basic subsistence incomes:
1. Ensure global cooperation in common issues such as climate change and terrorism. Accepting the India-sponsored Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) at the UN can be a good first step.
2. Rethinking conventional economic policies and giving a chance to schemes such as Universal Basic Income.
3. Ensuring financial inclusion to entire population and preventing leakages to social welfare.
4. Imparting appropriate skills to the population to ensure their relevance in the world of automation. E.g: Infosys decided to re-skill existing employees for automation-related jobs.
5. Creating awareness regarding population growth and ensuring increasing compliance between countries that face a labour deficit (Japan, EU) and countries that possess a labour surplus (India, China).
SDG1 – eradicating poverty – is inextricably linked to SDGs 2, 3 and 4: ending hunger, proper health and ensuring quality education respectively for all. Moreover, achieving SDG1 will require fulfilment of nearly all other SDGs such as achieving gender equality, sustainable industrialization, affordable energy, reducing inequality, and combating climate change. Thus, eradicating poverty requires a holistic approach that has linkages to all other sustainable development goals, and must be dealt with as such.