Work and Employment for a Sustainable Future
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About the content

What does it take to achieve SDG 8 and realize decent work for all? What is the link between employment, work, income and wealth? How will automation affect the future of work?

This course is self-paced – you can enroll immediately and complete the course materials at any time before August 31, 2021.

National economies have grown substantially since the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, yet people have not necessarily seen an increase in opportunities to find decent work or earn a decent income. In fact, in some places, the increased productivity and rising profits associated with automation have directly impacted the availability of decent jobs. According to the International Labour Organization, more than 204 million people were unemployed in 2015, and more than 600 million new jobs are needed by 2030 just to keep pace with the growth of the working-age population. We also need to improve working conditions for the 780 million women and men who are employed but not earning enough to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. In addressing these core issues we will not only see increasing decent work opportunities but also more robust, inclusive and poverty-reducing growth.

This course explores the past and future of work in the context of the SDGs, particularly SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth. It examines the state of income and employment around the world, barriers to employment, policies to promote economic opportunity, and the future of work in our rapidly changing world. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation are key to achieving the SDGs, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labor, slavery, and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the world can achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men by 2030.

This seven-module massive open online course (MOOC) provides an in-depth look at the issues of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all. The topics covered include structural shifts in economies and work; informality, gender, and child labor; the modern welfare state; the future of work; and more. The course concludes with a special module by the ILO on realizing decent work for all and achieving SDG 8.

You will learn about:

The link between employment, work, income and wealth
Global perspectives on changes to formal employment
The challenges of child labor, gender disparity and informal employment
Modern welfare state and novel policy instruments
Structural and institutional models for the future of work
Artificial Intelligence and the future of work
What it takes to achieve SDG 8 and realize decent work for all, featured in a special module by the ILO

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Policy professionals who want to understand frameworks for SDG planning

Development practitioners seeking knowledge on goals-based development

Advanced undergraduates and graduate students interested in economics, development, and other key concepts related to the SDGs



Module 1: Decent Work for Sustainable Development
1.1 Introduction to SDG 8: The Link between Work and Sustainable Development
1.2 Employment, Decent Work and Social Justice for Sustainability
1.3 Link between Employment, Work, Income and Wealth
1.4 Measuring Decent Work and SDG 8
1.5 Implosion Points, Demographic Change, Changing Nature and Locations of Jobs and Incomes

Module 2: Transitions in Employment and Work
2.1 A Structural Shifts in Economies and Work
2.1 B Structural Shifts in Economies and Work: Skill Bias
2.2 Work in a Post Manufacturing World
2.3 AMacroeconomic Context of Diminishing Returns to Labor
2.3 BMacroeconomic Context of Diminishing Returns to Labor: Social Democratic Model
2.4 Disaggregating Productivity Gains
2.5 Global Perspectives on Changes to Formal Employment

Module 3: Challenges of Work: Informality, Gender and Child Labor
3.1 Informal Employment: Definitions and Debates
3.2 Global Data: Size, Composition and Characteristics
3.3 Urban Informal Self-Employment
3.4 AInformal Self Employment: Informal Enterprises
3.4 BInformal Self Employment: Dependent Contractors
3.5 Challenges for Policy for Informal Workers and Enterprises
3.6 Formalization and Decent Work
3.7 Women in the Informal Workforce
3.8 Child Labor
3.9 Case Study: Modern Slavery and Children

Module 4: Current Policy Responses
4.1 Tracing the Rise of a Modern Welfare State
4.2 Features of a Modern Welfare State
4.3 New Policy Instruments
4.4 Developing Policies for the Education to Work Pipeline

Module 5: Structural and Institutional Models for the Future of Work
5.1 The New Dilemma of Development
5.2 The Knowledge Economy and Its Future
5.3 Labor and Capital
5.4 Finance and the Real Economy
5.5 The Capable Agent: Education

Module 6: Future of Jobs and Work
6.1 Automation, Work and Wellbeing: Lessons from History
6.2 The Political Economy of Automation
6.3 Skills and the Jobs of the Future: Implications for Education and Training
6.4 Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work
6.5 Challenge and Opportunities for Stable Inclusive Societies

Module 7: Special Module in Partnership with the ILO: Achieving SDG 8 and Realizing Decent Work for All
7.1 Promoting Full and Productive Employment
7.2 A Transformative Agenda for Gender Equality at Work
7.3 International Labour Standards
7.4 Labor Market Governance and Social Dialogue in the Face of Rapid Changes
7.5 Policies to Realize the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work
7.6 Universal, Adequate and Comprehensive Social Protection



Jeffrey Sachs, Columbia University

Kailash Satyarthi, Kailash Satyarthi Children's Foundation

Guy Ryder, International Labour Organization

Jeemol Unni, Ahmedabad University

Martha Chen, Harvard University

Carl Frey, University of Oxford

Bo Rothstein, University of Gothenburg

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Harvard University


Content Designer

SDG Academy

The SDG Academy creates and curates graduate-level courses on sustainable development for learners around the world.

From sustainable cities to human rights to climate action, each of our courses addresses the fundamental challenge facing our world today: How do people, communities, businesses and governments coexist, cooperate and collaborate to save the one planet we have? 

The SDG Academy's courses are fully interactive, so you can meet, debate and learn from both our global faculty of sustainable development experts and your fellow learners.

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Published on December 27, 2022
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