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Goal 8
"Promote sustained inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all"

Amid the 5.7% global unemployment rate, half of the world's population still lives on about $2 a day, and getting a job does not guarantee getting out of poverty. This slow and uneven growth requires us to reconsider and readjust economic and social policies aimed at eradicating poverty.

The global average annual GDP growth rate per capita has increased year-on-year, but growth is still slow in developing countries, and many countries are moving away from their 7% growth target by 2030. In addition, wages have fallen due to falling labor productivity and rising unemployment rates, and our living standards are also falling.

Sustainable economic growth requires a society that can have quality jobs that support the economy without harming the environment. Job opportunities and quality working conditions for the entire working-age population are also needed. Access to financial services should also be strengthened for income management, savings, and productive investment. Investment in trade, banking, and agricultural infrastructure must also be accompanied to increase productivity and lower unemployment in poor areas around the world.

8.1 Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries

8.2 Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labour-intensive sectors

8.3 Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services

8.4 Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavour to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programmes on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead

8.5 By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value

8.6 By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training

8.7 Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms

8.8 Protect labour rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment 

8.9 By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products

8.10 Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all

8.a Increase Aid for Trade support for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries

8.b By 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization

SDG 8 and the UN Human Rights Mechanisms

      1st UPR Cycle

      2nd UPR Cycle

      3rd UPR Cycle

Recommending State
Promulgate more laws and regulations on economic, social and cultural rights, to improve the legal framework concerning the exercise of human rights
Continue its cooperation and dialogue with the relevant international organisations with the aim to address the socio-economic needs of its people
Strengthen its national efforts in the area of combating trafficking in persons, especially women and children, including through human rights education and training for law enforcement officials
Take practical measures to provide safer working conditions, suitable for its citizens
Continue its efforts to fulfil the economic, social and cultural rights of all
Ensure equal access to social and economic rights for all citizens
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Continue to promote economic, social and culture development to provide better conditions for the enjoyment of all rights by its people
Intensify its efforts to promote economic development
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Strengthen measures to reinvigorate the national economy, including allowing more people-to-people contact through engagement in economic and commercial activities, including tourism
126.33 Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (Togo);
126.44 Fulfil its commitments under ratified human rights instruments, including the submission of outstanding reports (Poland);
126.72 Incorporate the principles and requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography into the relevant domestic laws with a view to fulfilling their implementation (Turkmenistan);
126.77 Incorporate the principles and requirements of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography into the relevant domestic laws with a view to full implementation (Syrian Arab Republic);
Syrian Arab Republic
126.81 Sustain its commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights (Nigeria);
126.85 Take measures to ensure effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (Viet Nam);
Viet Nam
126.92 Continue efforts for the implementation of the Five-Year Strategy for National Economic Development (2016-2020) (Democratic Republic of the Congo);
Democratic Republic of the Congo
126.108 Continue to promote sustainable economic and social development in order to provide a solid basis for its people to better enjoy all human rights (China);
126.134 Consider adopting policies to combat trafficking in persons, especially women and children (Philippines);
126.188 Adopt concrete measures to address the root causes of infant and child mortality, including social and economic deprivation and inequality, child malnutrition and child labour (Brazil);
Recommending State
Ratify the Convention on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour ILO Convention No. 182, CED, ICERD, CAT and its Optional Protocol, the ICRMW and CRPD
Consider joining ILO and accede to and implement its core conventions, in particular Nos. 29, 105 and 182, on child and forced labour
Join ILO and accede to its core instruments and extend an open invitation, and without restrictions, to ILO officials to analyze the situation of workers' rights in the country
Join ILO and ratify core conventions, particularly Nos. 105, 182 and 138, and allow related monitoring by ILO staff
United States of America
Amend the Labour Law of the Industrial Complex of Kaesong and incorporate the minimum age of 18 years for work hazardous to the health, security or morality of minors
Review its legal and administrative measures with a view to ensuring the dignity and better living conditions of the vulnerable groups, including women and children
Continue its efforts in ensuring economic and social rights
Viet Nam
Continue to promote and protect economic, social and cultural rights of its people, with greater emphasis on economic development
Sri Lanka
Strengthen measures, including through international dialogue and cooperation, to combat human trafficking and provide appropriate assistance to victims of trafficking
Continue efforts to reinvigorate the national economy by, inter alia, allowing more freedom for people to engage in economic and commercial activities
Ensure that high goals of economic development by 2012 contribute to bringing about a decisive turn in the promotion and protection of human rights
Iran (Islamic Republic of)
Continue engaging members of the international donor community in capacity-building in the field of economic and social rights
Work on overcoming the obstacles related to economic problems and the scarcity of resources through cooperation with the international community and the United Nations so as to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights
Take immediate action to cease the practice of forced labour, including in detention facilities, and take urgent measures to ensure that children are not forced to participate in mobilization projects
United States of America
Take effective measures against the practice of forced labour, including child labour and join ILO
Put an end to forced labour practices
Consider acceding to ICERD and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (ICRMW)
Ratify the Second Optional Protocol to ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty (ICCPR-OP 2), CAT and OP-CAT, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the three optional protocols to CRC
Consider promptly joining the International Labour Organization
Take immediate and transparent action to stop the use of torture and other ill-treatment of all detainees, including forced hard labour and denial of food quotas
Ensure that all prisoners are provided with the minimum standards of humane treatment, in particular that they are not subject to torture or inhumane or degrading treatment such as forced hard labour or food quotas
New Zealand
End forced labour
Take immediate steps to end the use of torture and other illtreatment of detainees in political prison camps, including forced labour and denial of food quotas
Immediately dismantle all political prison camps and abolish the practice of forced labour
Become a member of the International Labour Organization and comply with its obligations arising from international human rights law
Join the International Labour Organization and ratify the eight fundamental ILO conventions
Take immediate action to cease the practice of forced labour, including the use of prisoners and children, as defined by article 1 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
End the practice of inadequately paid labour and the political mobilization of the population, which in the case of minors hinder access to education
Eliminate all forms of forced labour and introduce freedom of movement both within and outside the country
Put an end to forced labour in political prison camps and, in particular, protect children under 18 years against any form of forced labour in conformity with target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals
End the practice of forcing all married women to join the Socialist Women's Union of Korea, and the demand to provide unpaid labour as part of the membership
Bring an end to serious human rights violations, particularly arbitrary detentions, forced labour, torture and other forms of inhuman, cruel or degrading treatment, as well as enforced disappearance
Prohibit and effectively end exploitative practices that require women who support families through private economy to contribute quotas of goods, money and unpaid forced labour for the Government and military investments
Ensure that children are protected against all forms of exploitation and forced or hazardous labour, especially as part of their school curriculum
Take further measures to prevent and combat violence against children, child forced labour and exploitation and ensure that all children have access to education
Take measures to prevent the militarization of children and their recruitment

SDG 8 and the North Korean Government

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North Korea’s state media has reported on the efforts to achieve higher levels of economic productivity highlighting exchanges and training conducted by factory workers, technicians and labourers.

Media has proudly reported on the “80-day battles” in which citizens work to increase production in farming, mining, and factories, stating that factories have achieved more than “120% in production performance.”

When it comes to achieving full and productive employment for all, the DPRK government in particular reported on its efforts to expand its employment for persons with disabilities in its National Report submitted to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2019 stating that “institutions, enterprises and organizations are under legal obligation to provide sufficient working conditions to persons with disabilities, and strictly prohibit persons with disabilities from working in case conditions for the labour safety and protection are not provided.”

Additionally, the DPRK government reported that recently a series of measures were taken to achieve full realisation of women’s right to work by “designating [a] new category of occupations suitable for them or expanding the scope of expanding occupations.” These measures indicated “a number of institutions, enterprises and organizations were newly established, creating conditions for women to take jobs suited to their abilities and work to the best of their skills. The number of factories in the field of light industry such as foodstuff, hosiery and cosmetics factories, institutions in health sector such as dental hospitals, paediatric hospitals and rehabilitation centres and schools like junior and senior secondary schools increased in number, requiring female workforce. On the other hand, the existing factories and enterprises modernized their production processes, enabling women to take jobs once done by men. A lot of enterprises and cooperatives organized production units accessible to women such as daily necessaries work teams and workshops.”

aThough the DPRK claimed in its report to the Convention on the Rights of the Child that child labour was abolished by law 70 years ago. Moreover, in its 2021 VNR report, the government strongly asserted that “the SDG targets 8.5 and 8.6 to provide all women and men with stable and decent jobs, education and/or training have already been achieved long time ago.” It further stated as “the SDG target 8.7 had already been achieved since the youth unemployment, forced labour and child labour which are common problems in the world do not exist in the DPRK.”

The DPRK also regularly reports on the mobilisation of youth for state projects such as the coal industry and to prepare damaged sites. Moreover, the DPRK has vowed to create safe and secure working environments in which people work 8 hours and receive daily necessities through the public distribution system.

The DPRK’s state media often reports on the country’s tourism industry in which local culture and products are promoted such as the Chosun Mount Baektu Tour Event in Yanggang Province and the Yangdok Hot Spring Resort.

SDG 8 and North Korean Escapees

“The monthly wage is 1,300 won when you successfully meet the required amount, and for mechanics 3,300 won if their work performance is good. I received 3,000 won. Although I received my salary, it was often delayed for several months. And I had to pay all kinds of fees including support fund for the military, youth alliance fees, and health insurance fees. They always took money from me but I have never received their services. Also in factories, there were a lot of tasks that we were assigned to by the authorities. In spring we had to plant trees. There are countless examples like this. When they took away all these fees, there was nothing left. If I was lucky, the only money I was left with was just enough for me to buy a bowl of corn noodles. At the time it cost only 5 won for a bowl. But that was something significant. Even that was often not given. They took away everything through such pretexts. About 70 to 80 won was not given. Even if you have to pay 500 won for some fees but nothing is left from the monthly salary of 3,000won, then the fee would be subtracted from the salary the next month.” 

[Interview by NKDB in 2015 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“Most people work without receiving compensation and there are some who receive rations for their work, but they still get very little compared to the amount of work they do. To tell you how much work it is, my friend’s parents are returnees from Chongryon (General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), my friend’s mother graduated from university in Japan. This happened when my friend was in university. He/she went home and had some alcohol, university students are given a lot of work so my friend asked, ‘Mother, if I work like this in Japan how much would I get?’ ‘You’ll be rich.’ She answered immediately. If you work this much you will be rich. This is how much work is given to the people.” 

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“There is light labour [for people with disabilities]. Six hours a day of work. There are some conditions to work at a factory that involves light labour... They had to get examined every quarter. There aren’t any benefits. It would help them more if they are not given work.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

“I haven’t seen a disabled person working in my area. Even able people aren’t able to find work, so what’s the point in [disabled people] working? They don’t give rice or money, so who would work? So if ‘whole’ people can’t work, disabled people can’t either. So they just stay and are cared for at home, so if a wife is like that, then the husband works. They mostly just stay at home.”

[Interview by NKDB in 2017 (NKDB Unified Human Rights Database)]

SDG 8 and the International Community

According to the Bank of Korea’s statistics, North Korea’s economy has grown since Kim Jong Un took power with the biggest economic growth being driven by the service sector. However, it is difficult to see the real growth of the economy as it does not reflect the impact of marketization which has expanded extensively over the past decade, based on the report provided by Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU).The 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry noted that, by 2008, informal economic activities accounted for 78 per cent of the total income of households. In its report released in 2019, the OHCHR highlighted that despite the large role that the informal sector plays in boosting North Korea’s economy, people are exposed to prosecution and corruption when they engage in rudimentary market activity.

The 2018 Global Slavery Index estimated that there were more than 2.6 million people living in modern slavery conditions in the DPRK, with one in ten people subjectto forced labour. In theory, the DPRK is externally still a socialist state in which the Supreme Leader and the State provide for its people, but the reality shows a marketized system where not only the people have to support themselves but are also expected to fund the regime. According to the stagnant system which North Koreans are bound by, North Korea still insists on total employment in which all officially recognised employment is centrally organised. Though the government states that all work earns an income, in reality, most North Koreans are not paid for their work other than through food rations, which were also not given regularly. With the collapse of the public distribution system during the Arduous March, most workplaces only exist but have no production, as a result, few North Koreans are able to depend on the state to sustain their lives. As the majority of companies fail to provide compensation for labour services provided by workers, many North Korean people have turned to other means of sustaining themselves. In order to be able to do these ‘illegal economic activities’ North Koreans register as ‘8/3 workers,’ in which they must pay a steep monthly fee to be registered at a workplace to avoid punishment. According to the NKDB’s report, if citizens do not pay to be registered and do not attend their workplace for more than fifteen days, then they are faced with punishments- the most common punishment for being unemployed or failing to attend work is being sent to a labour training camp.

The lack of freedom to choose to work and where to work, i.e. this form of modern slavery is not only seen in official work places but also emerges in ‘mobilisations’ in which both children and adults must partake in unpaid communal labour in agriculture, road building and construction. Labour mobilisations are often called ‘battles’ in which citizens are sent to work for 70 to 100 days without a day off.

There are 230 cases of violations of labour rights relating to inferior working environments in the NKDB Unified Human Rights Database and an additional 252 cases of deaths due to inferior working environments. The causes of these cases are mainly workers’ negligence or a poor working environment. NKDB’s research has found that poor working conditions include problems with lighting, temperature, noise level, ventilation, and poisonous by-products that affect workers’ capacity and safety.

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