Sustainable Development Goals

Charting progress towards SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth

Visualising global and regional trends

Adopted in 2015 by all United Nations (UN) members, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a global agenda for making the world a better place by 2030. They are described by the UN as a ‘shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet‘, and goals are to be achieved by all countries, in global partnership, by 2030.

This page provides a selection of visualisations on global and regional trends for Sustainable Development Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

The visualisations use the latest official data from the United Nations SDG Global Database.

Target 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


8.1.1Annual growth rate of real GDP per capita

In 2020 global real GDP per capita fell by 4.4%, as the pandemic caused the biggest economic crisis in decades. Global economic growth picked up in 2021, and the trend is forecasted to continue in 2022 and 2023. Still, the pandemic will have lasting economic and social consequences that will take many years to recover from, and likely hamper progress on many SDGs.

With the pandemic a strong contributor, all SDG regions had lower average annual GDP per capita growth rates from 2015-2020 than from 2010-2014. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania (excluding Australia and New Zealand) and Latin America and the Caribbean, GDP per capita decreased from 2015-2020.

Note that there is no set numerical target in terms of annual growth rates, although the target text speficially mentions at least 7% for least developed countries (LDCs). According to the UN SDG Progress Report for 2022, growth in LDCs stood at 5% in 2019 and declined to 1.4% in 2021. Projections for 2022 and 2023 are also below the 7% target level, at 4% and 5.7% respectively (as of July 2022).

Target 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


8.2.1Annual growth rate of real GDP per employed person

In the decade preceding the pandemic (2010-2019), the average annual labour productivity was 1.8%, higher than between 2000-2009 at 1.4%. While the pandemic caused a decline in labour productivity, it grew by over 3.2% in 2021, yet this should be interpreted with caution due to the large-scale structural changes caused by the pandemic in the labour market. As noted by the UN in the SDG 2022 progress report:

Lower-productivity firms and sectors and lower-paid workers were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, while high-productivity enterprises and high earners saw far less damage.

Regional labour productivity data show that Asian regions experienced the highest growth rates both measured from 2010-2014 and 2015-2020.

Target 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


8.3.1Proportion of informal employment in total employment, by sector and sex

The latest UN data from 2019 shows the informal economy accounted for 60% of global employment, which entails that the majority of employed persons around the world work in the informal economy.

Regionally, the largest informal economy shares were found in Central and Southern Asia (86%), with the lowest in Europe and Northern America (19%). The informal economy plays an integral part of the labour market in all regions, and often offers the only option for many to earn an income. Informal employment is especially prevalent in the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, where 9 out of 10 employed persons worldwide work in the informal sector. Integrating more employees and business owners in the formal economy is essential to improve working life, job quality and give more people access to social protection systems.

Target 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


8.4.1Material footprint, material footprint per capita, and material footprint per GDP
8.4.2Domestic material consumption, domestic material consumption per capita, and domestic material consumption per GDP

Global material footprint

The global material footprint is the total amount of raw materials extracted to meet final consumption demands. Over the past two decades, it has increased by almost 40 billion tonnes, reaching close to 100 billion tonnes in 2019.

A central challenge over the next decades is to achieve higher levels of resource efficiency so as to decrease the pressure on raw material extraction. Yet, since 2000 there have been only marginal improvements in the amount of raw materials needed per unit of wealth produced. In 2019 this stood at 1.1 kg of raw materials per unit of wealth produced.

Domestic material consumption

While the first indicator looks at the material footprint at the global level, the second indicator looks at domestic material use. It thus takes into account direct material use inside a country's territory (as well as any direct material imports and exports).

The latest data comparing 2019 with 2000, shows that material productivity has improved in most regions, i.e. less domestic material consumption per unit of wealth produced. Exceptions to this trend is in Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Northern Africa and Western Asia.

Despite improved material productivity, when measured per capita/per person, the global country-average domestic consumption increased over the past two decades. Oceania (including Australia and New Zealand) as well as Europe and Northern America managed to achieve a decline in domestic material consumption.

Target 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


8.5.1Average hourly earnings of female and male employees, by occupation, age and persons with disabilities
8.5.2Unemployment rate, by sex, age and persons with disabilities

No data is available at the global or regional level for average hourly earnings (8.5.1).

The pandemic pushed the global unemployment rate to its highest level for decades, reaching 6.6% in 2020. While it declined to 6.2% in 2021, the pandemic will most likely have long-lasting effects on the labour market and it has pushed the world further away from the SDG target of achieving full employment by 2030.

On the impact across different socio-economic groups, the UN said that:

The groups that were disproportionally impacted since the onset of the pandemic – women and youth – are now having the hardest time recovering. [...] There is now emerging evidence that persons with disabilities were hit harder as well.

All regions were hit by increased unemployment rates in 2020. The initial data suggests that the recovery in 2021 has been uneven, with many regions not seeing any improvement in 2021. Northern Africa and Western Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as Sub-Saharan Africa are currently the regions furthest away from the goal of full employment.

Target 8.6

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


8.6.1Proportion of youth (aged 15-24 years) not in education, employment or training

Global trends

Even before the pandemic, the world was not making any significant progress towards reducing the share of youth not in education, employment or training (NEET). Data for 2020 shows that the pandemic has also caused further setbacks, not only pushing more youth into unemployment but also through disruptions to education and training programmes for youth. Note that this target was to be achieved by 2020.

NEET-rates vary significantly between SDG regions. In 2020 they were highest in Central and Southern Asia as well as in Northern Africa and Western Asia (31%).

The NEET rate twice as high for young women as for young men. The gender gap is particularly large in Central and Southern Asia and Northern and Western Asia. In these two regions, 48% and 42% of women were where outside employment, education or training, compared to 16% abd 20% of men.

Target 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


8.7.1Proportion and number of children aged 5‑17 years engaged in child labour, by sex and age

Over 160 million children worldwide aged 5–17 years were engaged in child labour in 2020, according to the UN. This amounted to almost 1 in 10 of all children between 5-17 years of age, unchanged from 2016. In absolute numbers child labour has increased by over 8 million since 2016, putting the goal of ending child labour in all its forms by 2025 further out of reach. Child labour is most prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Target 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


8.8.1Fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries per 100,000 workers, by sex and migrant status
8.8.2Level of national compliance with labour rights (freedom of association and collective bargaining) based on International Labour Organization (ILO) textual sources and national legislation, by sex and migrant status

No data is available at the global or regional level for fatal and non-fatal occupational injuries.

The level of compliance with labour rights has only seen a modest improvement globally since 2015. Compliance is measured by a score from 0 to 10 based on countries' compliance with freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, with a lower score meaning a higher level of compliance. The world average has decline from 5.3 in 2015 to 5.0 in 2020. The most significant improvements regionally were seen in Asia, although the level of compliance is still low compared to the best-performing regions (Oceania, Europe and Northern America.)

Target 8.9

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


8.9.1Tourism direct GDP as a proportion of total GDP and in growth rate

This indicator captures only the size of the tourism sector, providing limited insight into sustainability, jobs and the promotion of local culture/products.

The tourism sector was one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic, with its global share of GDP almost halved from 4.0% in 2019 to 2.3% in 2020.

All regions for where 2020 data is available, show a decline in the GDP share of the tourism sector.

Target 8.10

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


8.10.1(a) Number of commercial bank branches per 100,000 adults and (b) number of automated teller machines (ATMs) per 100,000 adults
8.10.2Proportion of adults (15 years and older) with an account at a bank or other financial institution or with a mobile-money-service provider

The number of ATMs (per 100,000 adults) has increased in recent years, though not as fast as earlier in the decade, while the number of commercial bank branches fell slightly. This trend is in large part due to the digitalisation of finance and the expansion of mobile and internet banking, causing many banks to cut back on physical branches.

Access to finance has increased over the past decade, with the number of people with an account at a bank or mobile money service growing from 62% in 2014 to 76% in 2021.

Access to finance varies significantly between regions, with close to the full population over 15 years of age having an account in Australia and New Zealand, while in Northern Africa and Western Asia as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa under half of the population had an account.

Target 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.a.1Aid for Trade commitments and disbursements

While the target sets out a commitment to increase Aid for Trade support, there is no set numerical target. OECD data shows that total official development assistance for trade has increased over time and reached over 64 billion in 2020.

Target 8.b

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


8.b.1Existence of a developed and operationalized national strategy for youth employment, as a distinct strategy or as part of a national employment strategy

As of 2022, data on youth employment strategies is available for 81 countries. About half of those have operationalised such strategies, while the remaining countries are in the process of developing or have developed/adopted such strategies. 3 countries for which data is available have not developed a youth employment strategy.

About the data

The data presented on global and regional trends are from the UN SDG Global Database.


  • First release November 2022

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