The goal: fair and decent work for all

Michael Holländer explains why work is a topic for GIZ, how the company promotes training and employment and what link this has to skilled workers for Germany.

Employment creates income and safeguards livelihoods – yet it is much more than that. It enables people to be productive, and to invent, create and make things. It can create meaning and convey appreciation. Above all, it is the best way to prevent poverty. People engaged in properly paid work on fair terms – or ‘decent work’ to use the buzzword – can escape misery and poverty. The unemployed or underemployed, on the other hand, remain prisoners of their often difficult circumstances.

Adult employment, however, is far from being universal. According to figures from the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of people seeking work stands at almost half a billion. Others are toiling under inhumane conditions, for which they often receive only a meagre wage. This is particularly true of developing countries, where many people are in search of a job and where a lot of work is undertaken in the informal sector.

Michael Holländer Julian Rentzsch

Michael Holländer is the Director of GIZ’s Competence Centre for Vocational Education and Training and Labour Markets.

Moreover, because the population of these countries is extremely young – just over two thirds of all people in sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 30 – inadequate or insufficient work affects young people even more severely and frequently. This has knock-on effects, first and foremost for countries in the Global South, but ultimately for industrialised nations too: whenever people are unable to secure their long-term livelihoods in their ancestral homeland, they will seek their fortune elsewhere.

These are all reasons as to why employment is also an issue addressed by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. Our aspiration is to create and preserve decent jobs with living wages. This is also stipulated by Sustainable Development Goal 8 (SDG 8), which strives to ‘promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’. To foster progress towards this goal, GIZ adopts an ‘integrated approach to employment promotion’: this means that we provide a link between many aspects, including the demand side – in other words, job seekers – and the supply side, in the form of (potential) employers.


Improving vocational education and training

Improving vocational education and training is therefore a pivotal component of our portfolio. Here we bring the training sector together with the private sector so that trainees are equipped with the skills required to fulfil companies’ needs. The latter, for their part, ensure that workers are granted fair conditions. However, promoting small and medium-sized enterprises is likewise part of the portfolio since these are the very businesses in which most jobs are created worldwide. We also advise countries of assignment on setting up employment agencies, developing standards as well as on improving educational and training pathways and standardising these so that they are internationally compatible. This often occurs in forward-looking sectors such as renewable energies or digitalisation.

Training women

For instance, we provide young women in various African countries with training opportunities in a green sector such as renewables. Not only does this enable them to transition more smoothly to the labour market but it also meets the growing demand for relevant skilled workers. This is carried out in cooperation with the private sector. Another case is South Africa, where we are supporting innovative training measures geared towards enhancing digital literacy and accompanying technological change. Included among the measures are training courses for app developers, cloud practitioners or for drone pilots. These are just two examples out of a total of 144 projects and programmes in 79 countries, most of which are currently being conducted in sub-Saharan Africa.


Tackling the shortage of skilled workers through legal migration

All of this is designed to help create new opportunities in our countries of assignment. However, where people seek employment outside their home country, for whatever reason, GIZ works to ensure that migration creates an additional benefit for all involved, a situation referred to as a Triple Win: legal migration can ease the burden on local employment markets, help tackle the shortage of skilled workers in industrialised nations and open up new opportunities for individuals. GIZ has been active in this field for over a decade, working on behalf of the German Government and international donors as well as the private sector, and we are expanding our activities further.

Work is a key factor in development – for individuals, societies as a whole and the international order. We never lose sight of this potential threefold benefit.

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