New Delhi: Echoing the national concern to enhance livelihood security and sustainability by scaling up institutional mechanisms that reduce the vulnerability of communities and confirm Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Department of Policy Studies, TERI School of Advanced Studies (TERI SAS) concluded a high-level conference titled “SDGs and Sustainable Livelihood: Opportunities and Challenges in India”. India is still lagging in generating sustainable livelihood and the new upcoming government needs to prioritize and ensure successful implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will eventually lead to secure sustainable livelihood for the citizens.
The conference and deliberations will act as a prelude for policymakers; especially a new government will be formed soon, giving the vision to raise the scale of employability, and to look at innovative policies that can support livelihood projects specifically aimed at sustainable development in urban and rural India. The idea of sustainable livelihood was conceptualized in the late 1990s by DFID UK, and the concept was largely derived from the participatory approaches. A livelihood is sustainable when it can cope with and recover from stress and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.
In his keynote address, Prof Abhijit Sen, Former Member, Planning Commission, expressed his concern on the lack of understanding in the operational mechanism for interlinking SDG to the global and Indian context. “There is an urgent need to have an integrated policy to meet SDGs since Goals have an overlap with each other covering a broad range of interconnected issues from economic growth to social issues. Integrating them carefully with national programmes will have direct implications in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The ongoing issue of the unemployment rate has been the highest since the 1970s.
There needs to be an increased focus on developing labour-intensive sector or creating sectors which demand labour or experts such as healthcare and environmental management issues. Also, there should be an emphasis on building energy efficient housing and commercial infrastructure which will employ a large population”, he added. In her address, Dr Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, TERI School of Advanced Studies, highlighted the multi-dimensional nature of poverty and environmental degradation, and its long-term impact on sustainable livelihood. Similarly, she asserted the inter-linkages between various SDG goals and the need for a holistic approach in implementing SDGs. Dr Leena suggested that the new government should recognize the complex nature of the vulnerability and the challenges associated with access to both capital assets and entitlements provided by the state and others.
Presenting their views while addressing various cross-cutting issues related to the opportunities and challenges of sustainable livelihood in India, James Mathew (Deputy Director General, Ministry of Environment and Forests & Climate Change), Ranjana Kumari (Director, Centre for Social Research, New Delhi) and Meena Vaidyanathan (CEO, Nitii Consultant) highlighted that India needs to specifically emphasize the goals like Goal-1 (End poverty), Goal-4 (Quality Education), Goal-5 (gender equality), Goal-8 (decent work and economic growth), Goal-10 (Reduced Inequality) and Goal-15 (life and Land) in order to achieve sustainable livelihood.
Around 80 per cent of young people in India were participating in the informal economy, while self-employment and participating in the parallel economy provide an income, this vulnerable employment can leave young workers in unsafe conditions, without basic rights, and lacking the benefits that jobs within the formal economy can offer. Also, there is a wide disparity in employment based on gender resulting from inequality in opportunities and socio-economic and cultural expectations, which directly threatened the livelihood security. The panellists also highlighted that for inclusive economic growth, one must have access to training and education that will prepare them for today’s jobs, ensuring that inequality not only does not continue to widen but shrinks. Key takeaways from the conference that would work as guiding policy thoughts were:
– Government needs to indigenize all the SDGs at the national and state level. The upcoming government should prioritize and define all the SDGs and its related indicators at the national or at the regional level.
– Measurement of poverty has a direct link with a livelihood. The government needs to avoid universal, reductionist and standardized views while defining and measuring poverty at the national level.
– As per the recent estimation by ILO 2016-17 report, around 81% of all employed person in India are in the informal sectors as compared to 6.5 % informal sectors. Hence there is a huge demand for labour across all the sectors and the Government needs to understand the demands of the labour force in both formal and informal sectors. For this, the government should focus on more labour-intensive sectors for creating jobs.
– For generating sustainable livelihood government needs to work more gender-neutral wage payment system, especially in the informal economy. As per the ILO report 2017, the majority of the women workforce in India is in the informal sectors and they are concentrated more in unwarranted jobs and lower-earning forms of works as compared to men.
The event brought together renowned academicians, bureaucrats, development organizations, faculty and students to deliberate, reflect, understand and discuss the possibilities for sustained action towards cross-cutting issue related to a sustainable livelihood. TERI School of Advanced Studies is committed to building the capacity of youth to address the national, sub-national and global sustainability challenges. This was evident through presentations by young alumni of the Master’s programme in Sustainable Development Practice, who are making a dent on both policy and action areas.