"Work for Human Development" Discussed at Roundtable on UNDP Human Development Report

May 4, 2016


Fast technological progress, deepening globalization, aging societies and environmental challenges are rapidly transforming what work means today and how it is performed. This new world of work presents great opportunities for some, but also profound challenges for others.

Following the global release of the Report in Ethiopia in December 2015, the UNDP Seoul Policy Centre (USPC) held a Roundtable Discussion on the Human Development Report: Work and Human Development at Korea University today that brought together more than 100 representatives from governments, academia, research institutions, NGOs, international organizations and university students. The Report urges governments to act now to ensure no one is left behind in the fast-changing world of work.

The report calls for equitable and decent work for all. In doing so, it encourages governments to look beyond jobs to consider the many kinds of work, such as unpaid care, voluntary, or creative work that are important for human development. The report suggests that only by taking such a broad view can the benefits of work be truly harnessed for sustainable development.

The need for more inclusive and sustainable work opportunities was emphasized by United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark who said: “Decent work contributes to both the richness of economies and the richness of human lives. All countries need to respond to the challenges in the new world of work and seize opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods.”

With better health and education outcomes and reductions in extreme poverty, 2 billion people have moved out of low human development levels in the last 25 years, the report says. Yet in order to secure these gains and galvanize progress, a stronger focus on decent work is needed.

830 million people are classified as working poor who live on under $2.00 a day. Over 200 million people, including 74 million youth, are unemployed, while 21 million people are currently in forced labour.

“The focus on sustainable development in the Agenda 2030 resonates with the Report’s emphasis on the urgency to shift towards sustainable work in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. The implementation of the new agenda should be more inclusive. In this regard, the report addresses the important gender inequalities existing in the world of work and suggests a series of measures for addressing them,” said Artemy Izmetiev, Director a.i. of USPC.

Women do three out of every four hours of unpaid work

The report presents a detailed new estimate of the share of all work, not just paid work, between men and women. While women carry out 52 percent of all global work, glaring inequalities in the distribution of work remain.

Women are less likely to be paid for their work than men, with three out of every four hours of unpaid work carried out by women. In contrast, men account for two of every three hours of paid work. Since women often carry the burden of providing care services for family members, the report warns that this disparity is likely to increase as populations age.

When women are paid, they earn globally, on average, 24 percent less than men, and occupy less than a quarter of senior business positions worldwide.

“To reduce this inequality, societies need new policies, including better access to paid care services. Ensuring equal pay, providing paid parental leave, and tackling the harassment and the social norms that exclude so many women from paid work are among the changes needed. That would enable the burden of unpaid care work to be shared more widely, and give women a genuine choice on whether to enter the labour force”, Helen Clark said.

Globalization and the digital revolution are double-edged swords

Globalization and technological changes are producing an increasingly polarized world of work. “There has never been a better time to be a highly skilled worker. Conversely, it is not a good time to be unskilled. This is deepening inequalities”, said report author Selim Jahan.   

Highly skilled workers and those with access to technology, including to the internet, have new opportunities in the types of work available and the way that work is done. Despite new opportunities, however, more jobs are now becoming vulnerable and a wide digital divide remains, the report notes.

In 2015, 81 percent of households in developed countries have internet access, but only 34 percent in developing regions and 7 percent in the least developed countries have that access.

Many types of routine work, such as clerical jobs, are predicted to disappear or be replaced by computers, or have already disappeared, the report warns, while many more workers face other insecurities.

The 2015 Human Development Index

The 2015 Report also presented the annual Human Development Index (HDI) along with the Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), Gender Development Index (GDI) and Gender Inequality Index (GII). The HDI is a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development - health, education and income – and was first introduced in 1990 as a measurement of development that challenged purely economic assessments of national progress. The HDI in the 2015 Report covers 188 countries and territories. The top five countries in rank order are Norway [0.944], Australia [0.935], Switzerland [0.930] Denmark [0.923] and the Netherlands [0.922].

Korea’s Human Development Index (HDI) value [0.898], an increase of 21.5% or an average annual increase of about 0.86% since 1990, is above the average of 0.8880 for countries in the OECD. The country placed 17th in the world and among the ‘very high human development’ countries.


ABOUT THIS REPORT: The Human Development Report is an editorially independent publication of the United Nations Development Programme. For free downloads of the 2015 Human Development Report, plus additional reference materials on its indices and specific regional implications, please visit: http://hdr.undp.org


2015 Human Development Report http://hdr.undp.org/en/2015-report


Access to the Human Development Index Fact Sheet http://hdr.undp.org/en/hdi-factsheet-en


Full press package in all UN official languages http://hdr.undp.org/en/2015-report/press