We all worry about what the future holds for our children and grandchildren. Will they realize their dreams for a better life? Will they be able to support themselves and their families? Most importantly, what can we do now that will ensure the answer to these kinds of questions is a resounding "Yes"? The recently published United Nation's 2015 Human Development Report, Work for Human Development, offers a timely and convincing contribution to this global conversation around how to secure greater advancements for the next generation and beyond.
Work has intrinsic value, and contributes not only to economic growth but also to the richness of the human experience. I fully agree with the report's statement that we should recognize that work provides benefits beyond material wealth, including helping build strong communities, spurring knowledge, and promoting a sense of dignity and inclusion. However, I would also argue that all of us in the development community must remain focused on ensuring young people everywhere have the financial means to support themselves and their families. That means a decent job and a paycheck, or sustained self-employment via a business start-up that can survive and grow.
We cannot fuel the world's economies or eradicate extreme poverty in the next 15 years if the largest youth population in history is not gainfully employed. If this younger generation can't move up to join a vigorous working or middle class and contribute to their country's tax base, then governments won't have the resources or the political stability and will to build the strong, democratic, and stable societies of the future.
Work should contribute to the sustainability of our planet and foster opportunities for both the present and the future. We need to be far more creative when it comes to creating new jobs that will help improve and sustain the environment for generations to come, including training young people for employment in areas such as renewable energy. Not surprisingly, young entrepreneurs, like Emma in India, are already leading the way in creating "green" jobs that improve the local economy and the environment.
Even though women carry out the major share of the world's work, they continue to face enormous disadvantages in the workplace. That women today earn 24 percent less than men and dominate the world of unpaid work represents not only a social injustice. It's an economic disaster. Human progress will only accelerate when decent employment is accessible to all people, the report points out, and that includes women, youth, and other marginalized groups.
While we've seen remarkable progress for women's economic and human rights over the past 40 years, much work remains to be done--through gender-responsive program design, for example, and policies that combat persistent inequity and bias.
"Inaction," the report states, "is not a viable option anywhere." Indeed! Pressing for effective interventions to boost human development and economic growth is our collective obligation if we truly seek to ensure a better and more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.