SDG8: Decent work and economic growth

Young people are abandoning farming, while agricultural workers often work in precarious conditions for little pay. We must tackle these issues, so economic growth can benefit the many, not the few.

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Image courtesy of the United Nations

Agriculture provides jobs for more than a billion people globally. Yet millions of farmers and farm workers don’t earn enough to pay for the basics like decent food, housing and education, let alone save for unexpected setbacks or for a dignified retirement. Seventy percent of the more than 152 million children in child labour are working in agriculture. The race to the bottom on prices – particularly in coffee, cocoa and bananas – means the risk of child and adult exploitation gets worse. Consequently, young people are leaving farming communities in droves, often ending up in informal and insecure work in cities or on larger farms.

Goal 8 aims to “promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all”. This can only be achieved if farmers get a decent price for their crop and if workers have safe, secure and fairly paid jobs.

How Fairtrade contributes to SDG8: decent work and economic growth

Fair pay and a decent standard of living are international human rights. Fairtrade’s Standards are based on core ILO conventions and the concept of human rights due diligence.

Here are some ways in which Fairtrade supports decent work for all:

  • Fairtrade promotes better working conditionsalmost 100 percent of workers on Fairtrade plantations in the banana sector of northern Colombia had more stable indefinite-term contracts, compared to 16 percent for those on non-Fairtrade plantations.

    Women workers also benefit from better protection against gender-based violence and sexual harassment through gender committees and grievance procedures, and entitlements when pregnant and breast-feeding.

    Textile workers benefit from greater workplace safety, including the mandatory use of protective clothing, proper handling of hazardous materials and improved building safety.

  • Fairtrade supports workers in the formal sector to negotiate better pay and conditions, working in partnership with trade unions and labour rights organizations – for example, on banana plantations in Cameroon and Ghana.

  • Fairtrade’s living income strategy for small-scale farmers aims to ensure they earn a decent income in order to have a sustainable future.

  • Fairtrade sets living wage benchmarks and is taking concrete steps towards decent wages for workers on Fairtrade plantations.

  • Fairtrade Standards prohibit child labour and forced labour. We support young people and their communities to tackle the root causes themselves.

  • The Fairtrade Minimum Price and Premium provide important price protection and additional funds to farmers and workers.

We still have a long way to go to achieve decent wages and income for all Fairtrade farmers and workers. We need everyone in the supply chain – from traders to consumers – to partner with us on this journey.

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Zuhura, a worker at the Fairtrade certified Mount Meru flower farm, Tanzania.
Image © Fairtrade Austria / Georges Desrues

Improving wages for workers

In 2017, Fairtrade took a decisive step towards improving wages in the flowers and plants sector, by changing the Fairtrade Flower Standard to include a minimum base wage.

Since then, workers at Mount Meru flower farm in Tanzania have seen a 30 percent rise in their wages. Nearly all workers get additional payments on top of the base wage, depending on their roles and responsibilities.

'The economic situation is still difficult but Fairtrade has certainly helped,' says one worker who is also a union member. 'On behalf of the workforce, I want to say that we really appreciate the change that Fairtrade has brought about.' Read more.