During the 2015 UN General Assembly all UN member countries adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which committed to achieving 17 ambitious Sustainable Development Goals. Today humanity is in the middle of the path to achieving them. Unfortunately, numerous studies indicate that progress towards SDGs is not sufficient and, if the current pace continues, many of the goals will not be achieved. This, in particular, was discussed at the UN SDGs Summit held in September 2023.
In this regard, it is very important that every country could monitor the SDGs achievement at local level. It is even more important that researchers conducting this monitoring should be as objective as possible, which is best implemented in the format of public monitoring (review) of the process of the SDGs achievement.
In 2022-2023, a group of Belarusian experts prepared a series of reviews on various SDGs within the framework of the project “Institutional integration of the 2030 Agenda in Belarus and other Eastern Partnership countries”, implemented by the Dortmund International Education Center supported by the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ).
We bring to your attention “Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 8 in a Time of Turmoil: the Perspective of Ultimate Beneficiaries.” The definition of SDG 8 is “Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.”
In preparing the review, the researchers relied on publicly available data and open sources of information. However, since this data is not always enough to assess progress in achieving the goal from the point of view of the final beneficiaries - the residents of Belarus, additionally, as part of the preparation of this review, a special study was conducted on the economic self-perception of Belarusian people. The survey, which covered more than 1,000 people, was conducted in April-May 2022. The survey used a questionnaire based on the results of focus groups.
The study showed that for the majority of respondents, a good standard of living is associated with a stable and predictable situation in the country, as well as with respect for the rule of law and fair justice (73.7% of respondents think so). Also important are high-quality and accessible education, medicine and social support from the State (in total, 61.9% of respondents note this).
In general, the authors of the review noted negative trends in achieving SDG No. 8 in Belarus over the past few years. This is primarily due to the fact that in recent years Belarus has experienced two strong shocks - the coronavirus pandemic and the internal political crisis that followed the 2020 presidential elections. The situation was aggravated by the introduction of economic sanctions.
Thus, according to the study, Belarus is currently not achieving the per capita economic growth needed to narrow the gap in living standards with richer countries in the region. Thus, according to the World Bank, in 2021, GDP per capita in current US dollars in Belarus was 17.3% (17.4% in 2015) of the same indicator for the Eurozone and 60% (64.1%) of the Russian indicator. In current US dollars at purchasing power parity, the differences were smaller, but still significant: the Belarusian indicator was 42.7% of the Eurozone indicator (44.1% in 2015) and 66.1% of the Russian indicator (75.1% in 2015). In the 6 years since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda, the gap has widened.
In addition, the authors mentioned negative trends in the labor market of Belarus, which is characterized by a decrease in the employment rate of the population aged 15–74 years from 68.1% in 2015 to 67.3% in 2021. Another feature is the lack of vacancies with decent wages.
All the reasons mentioned lead to changes in the consumer behavior of citizens.
Change in consumer behavior, % of respondents
Source: calculations based on national population survey data (April-May 2022)
At the time of the survey, the majority of respondents clearly viewed the situation in the country as a crisis: both the change in the economic situation in the country and the change in people’s well-being were assessed pessimistically, while the state of the economy, according to respondents, was deteriorating faster than the well-being of people.
According to researchers, the current crisis, due to its systemic nature, has affected almost all sectors of the economy. For the labor market, this resulted in a compression of demand – layoffs and a freeze in the creation of “decent jobs.” The lack of vacancies with decent wages (and high wages are the main characteristic of decent work) is, according to respondents to a national survey, the main problem of the Belarusian labor market, which is a reflection of problems in the economy.
The majority of workers feel insecure in the labor market: it is easier to lose a job than to find it, while women assess their prospects in the labor market worse than men. The outflow of personnel and the lack of rights of employees before the employer (this is noted by 33.2% of respondents) form the three most significant problems in this area.
Finally, there is a long-term problem of the Belarusian labor market as population aging also requires attention. The increase in the share of the population of older age groups in the total labor force causes a decrease in employment, since in the age group 60–74 years the employment rate is three times lower than the average for all ages. In addition, despite the increase in the retirement age, economic activity in this group is declining. At the same time, many people are highly motivated to continue working after retirement: the relatively high unemployment rate in this age group (4.6% among men and 5.2% among women) indicates that, even as retirees, people continue to look for work.
Thus, an analysis of the reasons for early dismissal and the employment opportunities of retirees can help to develop measures to increase the level of employment in this group and, therefore, improve their quality of life and promote economic growth. The authors, in particular, point out that the State cannot replace the role that civil society played until 2021 in the retraining and reintegration of pensioners and other vulnerable groups into the labor market. Indeed, unlike the State and pro-state public structures, which operate on a top-down basis, civil society initiatives work from the bottom up and are therefore more focused on the needs of target groups.
The full text of the review is available here.
The text on Russian language is available here.