Overall, the brief underscores that social dialogue and the SDGs have complex two-way interactions. On the one hand, achieving some of the 2030 Agenda’s targets, such as the full recognition and observance of labour rights and the rule of law, are preconditions for effective social dialogue. On the other hand, social dialogue can contribute to achieving many SDG targets relating to people, planet and prosperity. In particular, the brief highlights the following areas where social dialogue could be more effectively leveraged to make progress towards the SDGs:
- Poverty and inequality. There is evidence that social dialogue can help reduce poverty and income inequality, for example through collective agreements that pay special attention to the working conditions of disadvantaged groups and low-skill workers, and by helping to achieve a broader sharing of productivity and its gains by rebalancing bargaining positions.
- Education and skills. Some evidence supports the view that social dialogue can contribute to high-quality vocational education and training systems, and to the upskilling of the workforce
- Health and quality of the working environment. Occupational safety has been at the heart of social dialogue for several decades, as reflected by the negative cross-country relationship between fatal injuries at the workplace and the degree of coverage of collective agreements. Many studies have shown that there is also a positive correlation between health conditions, safe workplaces and labour productivity.
- Productivity growth and employment. There is growing evidence that forms of collective bargaining that emphasise wage co-ordination among sectors and firms can yield higher productivity and better employment outcomes, as compared to systems with no or uncoordinated collective bargaining.
- Economic resilience. Strong collective bargaining and/or tripartite social dialogue have increased countries’ economic resilience in the aftermath of the financial crisis, among other, through short-term working schemes that reduced job losses and helped preserve firms’ human capital.
- Environment. While evidence remains scarce, some studies suggest that social dialogue may provide a useful platform for easing the transition towards greener economies.
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