The day’s third panel discussion was entitled, “Voices from the real economy”.  Moderated by Michael Shank, Director of Media Strategy, Climate Nexus, and Senior Fellow, JustJobs Network, it featured Nomvuzo Shabalala, Deputy Mayor of Durban, South Africa; Sanjay Kumar, Director, Self-Employed Women’s Association, Bharat, India; Vicenta Trotman, Community leader and member, Administrative Board of Rural Water Supply, Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous territory of the Ño-Kribo region, Panama; and Paul Hazen, Executive Director, Overseas Cooperative Development Council, International Cooperative Alliance, United States.

In a first round of questions, Mr. SHANK asked the panelists to share real-world experiences in the field of employment from their communities and sectors, and asked how the United Nations focus on sustainable development would affect them.

In response, Ms. SHABALALA said that her city, Durban, faced a number of challenges related to employment.  Nevertheless, it was striving to be one of the world’s most liveable cities by 2030.  Creating sustainable livelihoods for its citizens, providing proper services and creating decent jobs were among the city’s priorities in that respect, she said, adding that current strategies to create sustainable jobs included tourism promotion.

Mr. KUMAR said that his trade union, the Self-Employed Women’s Association, was one of the largest around the world with almost 2 million members.  About 50 per cent of India’s employment was in the informal sector, where risks were high.  As an example of work being done in his community, he said that the Association had made legislative strides in protecting the livelihoods of millions of street vendors.  The Association also worked with construction workers, attempting to provide them with benefits, and tried to provide domestic workers with employment security and other forms of social protection.

Ms. TROTMAN said that, in her community, there were 3,000 students whose parents were unemployed, and who frequently dropped out of school at an early age. Employment and decent work in harmony with sustainable employment were an issue of great concern.  Indigenous communities were the most affected; therefore, she proposed the creation of policies which included marginalized communities in development plans and presented clear targets.  The food production industry was one possible example.

Mr. HAZEN said that half the world’s population relied on a cooperative in their daily life.  Cooperatives were well suited to implement the sustainable development goals, as they brought the formal and informal employment sectors together.  The global cooperative movement sought to create decent, sustainable jobs and long-term employment.  As an example, he pointed to subsistence farming, where cooperatives were a good way to bring farmers into the global marketplace.

In a second round of questions, Mr. SHANK asked the panelists what policies were needed from the public and private sectors in order to create decent work and achieve sustainable development.

Responding, Ms. SHABALALA said that her city was working to avoid fragmented development plans, and instead sought to integrate all of its policies.  Some examples included a policy protecting workers in the informal economy, a job-creation strategy focused on declining industries, an “empowerment charter” aimed at radical economic transformation and enterprise development and a spatial development plan.

Mr. KUMAR said that policies should help to formalize informal jobs.  Contrary to popular belief labour regulation did not lead to informality.  To help formalize the informal economy, business registration procedures needed to be simplified and benefits and safety nets — such as paid sick leave — needed to be provided.  Incentives should be created for formalization, as well as for socially responsible employment practices in general.

Ms. TROTMAN said that much support was needed from both the private and public sectors in order to build the capacities of the population and create more employment.  Scholarships should be provided to low-income students, and child labour needed to be eradicated.

Mr. HAZEN said that cooperatives needed an enabling environment, fair laws and access to credit.  Cooperatives could not be excluded from public policy.  Nevertheless, Governments must not interfere with the operation of cooperatives or use them for political purposes, as had happened in the past.

In a final round of questions, Mr. SHANK raised the question of sustainable development goal eight on decent work, and asked how relevant that goal — and work-related targets across all the sustainable development goals — were to the experience of the panelists.  How could those goals be achieved without threatening the achievement of other sustainable development goals?

Ms. SHABALALA said that achieving goal eight could be difficult in the short term, but could be achieved in the medium to long term.  She reiterated that tourism was a major component of achieving that target.  Durban was in the process of finalizing a strategy on cooperatives which would include the views of the public, and the South African Government had a national youth employment framework in place.

Mr. KUMAR said that it was important to recognize that slums were the site of considerable economic activity, and that many people across the world worked from home.  Public spaces were needed by other workers.  Radical thinking was needed in order to meet these needs.  In that respect, he presented a number of amendments that could be included in sustainable development goal eight.

Ms. TROTMAN said that achieving goal eight would depend on the policies and strategies implemented throughout the process.  People needed to be empowered.  By way of an example, she pointed to a United Nations project for the governance of water and sanitation that had taken place in her community, as well as a radio communication project.  Decent work policies, including at the global level, needed to focus on youth and women.

Mr. HAZEN said that the cooperative business model was synonymous with sustainable development.  Reaching size and scale would be critical to achieve sustainable development goal targets related to employment.  In that respect, the cooperative movement would be a good private-sector partner and would help Governments achieve the size and scale needed to achieve goal eight.

The representative of Argentina then took the floor to ask why the title of the panel was “Voices from the real economy”.  The “virtual” economy was also very real, she said.  She also asked what the private sector, the State and social movements should do to resolve the human rights violations of informal labour.

Ms. SHABALALA responded that the title of the panel encouraged panellists to share their “real” experiences with job creation and employment.  She said that her city had built relationships with banks, enabling potential and existing small business owners to achieve sustainable financing.  Long-term, sustainable jobs also needed to be created in order to segue out of the informal labour.

Mr. KUMAR responded that Governments only thought of taxation when they considered formalizing the informal economy.  However, there were so many negative aspects of informal work that true formalization was necessary.

Mr. HAZEN said that, in some countries with the best models, cooperatives created their own financial systems.
For information media. Not an official record.