By Michael Shank

While the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the G20 meets in Washington DC this weekend to discuss economic growth, a completely different, and much more diverse, group of stakeholders met in Delhi, India, to discuss a model that turns the IMF, World Bank and G20 model on its head.

Meeting in the emerging economy that is India, convened by the Center for American Progress and others, the conversation in Delhi was very different. It was about equitable employment, or “just jobs”. Sabina Dewan, Director of Globalization and Employment at the Center for American Progress and lead organizer of the conference in Delhi, noted that “the lack of focus on jobs at the IMF/WB spring meetings reflects the disconnect between the political elite and those in the ‘real economy’. How can we have a discussion about stable and sustainable economies without addressing the most pressing challenge – how to create good jobs, especially for young people, to drive economic growth?”

At this conference in Delhi, and for the first time ever, a “Just Jobs Index” was launched to identify and rank the countries that are providing the best employment opportunities, income and employment security, safety at work and healthy work conditions, and equality of treatment and opportunity.

The top five performers in 2009, the latest year where the data were most available: Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Australia and Denmark. Why? Because these countries put workers first, a paradigm not often pushed at the IMF, World Bank or G20, where profits, donors and shareholders often come first.

This Index is definitely worth checking out. The researchers are humble about their approach, acknowledging that this is Version 0.1 and that it will be improved upon. Additionally, they note that it wasn’t possible to include the US, China and India in the Index due to unavailability of data on several fronts (e.g. vulnerable employment rate).

Here’s the introduction and summary from the Just Jobs Index:

Jobs have taken center stage in the development agenda since the financial crisis of 2008. The Just Jobs Network works to promote just jobs–those complete with appropriate compensation, social protections, labor rights, and opportunities for economic mobility–as the basis for broad-based, sustainable economic growth.

As part of that effort, we have developed a new international measure of fair jobs–the Just Jobs Index–to broaden the global discourse on employment beyond the common emphasis on unemployment and to address job quality.

The Just Jobs Index, or JJI, illustrates that an initiative to examine the relative availability of just jobs in countries at different stages of development is not only possible but also insightful. At the same time, our efforts show just how far there is to go in filling in the data gaps for developing and developed countries alike.

The JJI assesses the nature and extent of fair jobs at a country level and creates a vivid picture of work opportunities, income and employment security, and equality of treatment and working conditions. It is the first international measure of its kind and offers an essential complement to various indices such as the human development index, or HDI, that aggregately measure development. The JJI can be a useful analytical tool to identify countries that are successfully providing quality employment opportunities. It can also help researchers identify the mechanisms by which economic growth translates into higher standards of human welfare and more efficient economic and social development, and vice versa.

In addition, the JJI reveals interconnections among the various dimensions of job creation and how working conditions can be improved. This enables policymakers to target resources and design policies more effectively.

The findings presented in this issue brief represent only the preliminary estimates and analyses of just jobs in many developed and developing nations across the world. Despite the exciting possibilities, however, this version of the index is limited by the lack of data in both developing and developed countries.

Good policymaking requires good data. Without good data, we cannot accurately identify where policy is working and where it is failing. Unfortunately, the vast majority of countries do not have all of the relevant data that would allow researchers and policymakers to measure employment availability, opportunity, and quality. Dimensions such as social protection and social dialogue, which we struggled to include in this initial version of the JJI, could be more fully incorporated into future versions if the data become available.

This issue brief summarizes the new index’s preliminary findings, explains how the index was constructed, and suggests ways the index might communicate core findings that governments, development agencies, and other stakeholders can use to address the jobs concern and identify relevant policy measures.

Click HERE to read the entire Just Jobs Index.