Poverty, employment and inequality in the SDGs: Heterodox discourse, orthodox policies?

Malte Luebker

Research output: Working paperAcademic


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put much emphasis on the
employment and inequality, a noteworthy shift from the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) and their focus on poverty eradication. To
achieve ‘Sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth’, SDG Goal 8
contains targets on productivity-enhancing policies, employment and decent
work, and makes reference to three out of the four fundamental labour rights.
While these are necessary ingredients for a sustained increase in living
standards and important elements of heterodox accounts of development, they
are not sufficient conditions to create equitable growth. Drawing on examples
from Asia, the paper makes this argument by addressing three orthodox
conjectures: that workers benefit from productivity growth through higher
wages; that factor shares in national income are roughly constant; and that
policy interventions such as minimum wages are bound to fail. The paper
concludes with two policy implications: (1) Countries need to adopt fiscal,
wage and social protection policies that reduce inequalities of outcome and
achieve faster income growth for the poorest – elements which can be found
in Goal 10. (2) Effective labour markets governance needs to include the right
to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the only fundamental
labour right not explicitly mentioned in the SDGs.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages30
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series

Bibliographical note

JEL Classification D31, D33, I30, J31, J83


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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