On 14th December, the 2015 Human Development Report titled ‘Work for Human Development’ was presented in Addis Ababa.  The document, reported on by the experts Mikel Mancisidor and Alfonso Dubois, underlines the new challenges affecting labour and employment.

Prior to 1990, economic growth, understood as the increase in the production of goods and services as reflected in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita, natural reserves, investments and savings achieved in a given economic cycle, were the only elements available to assess the level of development of nations; an approach that impoverished and overlooked aspects such as quality of life or the integral development of individuals. Hence, for the past 25 years, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been commissioning the Human Development Report, HDR, which measures the state of well-being of individuals. This indicator is the sum of variables related to health, education and income, which enables us to measure the quality of life of citizens, based on the premise that people are the true wealth of a nation.


This year’s HDR titled ‘Work for Human Development‘ has arrived at a time of far-reaching change in the world of work that is affecting when, how and where people work. “The report speaks of the challenges we are facing derived from these changes caused by technological development, by telecommunications and by the very fortunate inclusion of hundreds of millions of people from southern nations to the world economy”, says the human rights expert, Mikel Mancisidor. A future, he warns, of greater opportunities, although also more complicated for the more than 200 million unemployed people in the world, of which 74 million are youths

This changing situation mentioned by Mancisidor is endangering some of the gains typically understood to apply to the welfare state, labour security and social security. A situation that is proving to be, in particular for developing countries, distinctly uncertain. Consequently, now, more than ever, there is a greater need to “adapt and be flexible”.

Rethinking Work for Human Development

According to the HDR, 830 million workers worldwide are living on less than 2 dollars a day. A situation, in the case of poor workers, that is neither new nor linked to the crisis, but that responds to a “simplistic concept of work”, says the economist, Alfonso Dubois, who also reported on some of the major points of the report. “What we understand by work is what we understand by society”, he continued; underlining the instrumental, intrinsic and social value of work.

One of the key aspects of the HDR, according to Dubois, consists in rethinking the concept of work – not of employment – as a means of unleashing human potential, creativity, innovation and imagination. This is essential for human life to be productive, useful and to have meaning and not only to allow people to earn a living, fill the fridge and pay the bills. Work that provides a way of participating in society but, above all, decent work.

Young People, the Great Agents of Change

“The world is full of opportunities, especially for young people”, says Mancisidor, who is an optimist – and realist – regarding the results of the HDR. The digital revolution and globalisation have resulted in greater labour flexibility and new work models, but also in greater insecurity and vulnerability for everyone.

“However, I wouldn’t describe it in tones of grey, only stressing the negative aspects that the HDR describes, rather the challenges that young people have to face, a multi-coloured view”, continued the expert. “Each day, thousands of people around the world surprise us with new initiatives, technologies and projects to which they apply their skills and talents. This is why young people must take account of the world, they must want to be part of the world, play a role that will improve their environment and they must train, because qualifications and languages are no longer enough in the future labour market”, he asserts.