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05.03.21

Building the next generation of responsible businesses and leaders

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Emilia McElvenney
Emilia McElvenney Head of Development and Programmes Youth Business International (YBI)

YBI’s brief shares our learning and sets out our recommendations to help young entrepreneurs embed decent work principles into their businesses.

Everyone has the right to decent work. Meaning, a job which delivers a fair income in a safe environment with prospects for the future and social integration. A job which offers social protections if you are sick, have family commitments, or are injured. A place where you have the freedom to express your concerns, organise with others and can participate in the decisions that affect your own work. And finally, one where there is equality of opportunity and treatment for all regardless of gender and other discriminating factors.

The private sector plays a crucial role in shaping the world of work for millions; determining working environment norms and behaviours the world over. Young entrepreneurs are the innovators and job creators of tomorrow’s private sector. They have the potential to be responsible business leaders who will drive a more sustainable and inclusive economy for the future with decent work for all. Equipping young people as they start their entrepreneurship journey with the right understanding, skills and knowledge about how to embed decent work into their businesses, allows them to create decent work for themselves and for their employees.

In practice however, the decent work agenda, (a set of guiding principles and associated trainings and materials focused on job creation, rights in the workplace, social protection, and social dialogue), is too often only associated with larger national or multinational corporations.

In our experience, while young entrepreneurs want what is best for their employees and care about their workforce, there are limited materials and resources designed specifically for them which address the barriers faced in implementing decent work principles into their businesses. In many cases, this means that individual entrepreneurs and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially in emerging markets, often rely on informal practices which don’t create a positive decent work environment. Our recent work has set out to address this challenge.

YBI is a recognised UN partner for the Sustainable Development Goal to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment for all (SDG 8), and is a partner on the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

As part of our role as a champion for decent work, we led a pilot project, supported by the IKEA Foundation and with the help of Catalystas Consulting. We set out to understand decent work in the Indian and Bangladeshi context alongside YBI members Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Help Centre (B’YEAH) and Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST). This allowed us to develop the first iteration of content and curriculum that our members piloted with entrepreneurs to help them embed decent work principles into their businesses.

This work was conducted against the backdrop of the global pandemic—when safeguarding lives and livelihoods has never been more important. And a lot of the topics discussed, fair wages, sick pay, and personal protective equipment were especially relevant.

In the brief Building the next generation of responsible businesses and leaders, we share our learnings from the pilot and set out our recommendations. We believe this work will demonstrate that young entrepreneurs can and will safeguard human rights and be the future of responsible business and decent work. We will continue to roll out the decent work curriculum across our memberships and look for new ways to embed an understanding of decent work in other services, such as mentoring.

We want to engage with those interested in the decent work agenda, business leaders, funders, partners, youth leaders, unions, and ESOs, to further advance understanding and investment in the promotion and action of the decent work agenda to make it relevant and achievable for all young entrepreneurs.

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