Economic growth can be defined by increasing consumption due to the increase in population and reaching production amounts to meet consumption with technological developments and governmental incentives. Economic activity has been boosted by various governmental initiatives, ranging from tax optimisation to free-market protection, infrastructure and education investment (Bleys and Whitby 2015). On the other hand, the correct placement of people in the production and consumption equation can be expressed as decent work. Although decent work and economic growth may seem like different terms at first glance, they are inseparable terms for each other. Decent work includes equal opportunities for all people, without gender, social and opportunity discrimination. According to International Labour Organization (2015), decent work encompasses opportunities for productive work that pays a fair wage; workplace security and social protection for families; improved prospects for personal development and social integration; freedom for people to express their concerns and organise and participate in decisions that affect their lives; and equal advantages for all women and men. Although slavery has been abolished in the past centuries in human history, there is still a lot of employment in inhumane work that can be defined as modern slavery. The increase in decent employment is directly related to economic growth. The work done will be finalised in less time with more quality, waste will be reduced, and this optimised framework will directly contribute to the economy. Decent work is made possible by rights, security, conditions, remuneration, being organised and represented and equality in every sense (Rodgers 2009).

Before 1990, until the millennium development goals (MDGs), poverty was one of the leading indicators affecting decent work and economic growth, while in developing countries, the rate of extreme poverty was 47%, and the rate of work over $4 a day was only 18% (United Nations 2015). While not the exact MDG counterpart of SDG-8, it is directly related to more than one MDG, which are MDGs 1 (eradicate extreme poverty and hunger), 3 (promote gender equality and empower women) and 8 (develop a global partnership for development). According to the research and observation, it illustrates significant changes in poverty. For instance, in a quarter of the years between 1990 and 2015, the rate of poverty decreased by 33% in developing countries. From the gender discrimination perspective, women make up 41% of paid workers except those who work in the agricultural sector. Also, there was an increment in 1990, which was about 35%. In the last 20 years, women gained a right to represent themselves in 90% of 174 countries’ parliaments. The research also states that between 2000 and 2004, from developed countries, the official development assistance enhanced 66%, and it reached $135.2 billion (United Nations 2015).

Based on these developments, in the environment created by the goals achieved, it was decided to continue these studies with more comprehensive goals in September 2015 at a historic UN Summit. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) seek to promote long-term economic growth by increasing productivity and fostering technological innovation. Promoting policies that stimulate entrepreneurship and job development and effective efforts to eliminate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking is critical. Keeping these goals in mind, the objective is to attain full and productive employment, as well as respectable work, for all women and men by 2030 (“Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth”, 2016). The SDG-8 is among the top five, with the most progress between 2018 and 2019 based on target achievement (UNDESA 2020).

Global economic growth, which has already slowed down for many reasons in recent years, has slowed down even more with the effect of the pandemic. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted many global economic activities. According to projections, real GDP (gross domestic product) is expected to decrease by 4.6% in 2020 compared to 2019. Considering these studies, it is expected to remain well below the 7% target envisioned by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations 2021). As a result, SDG-8 is measured in a general framework, with which indicators, the sub-goals and the potentials of decent work and economic growth are mentioned, and how these studies are carried out on a global scale. In 2020, after the global economy and employment were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the world, the projections have changed, and it will be seen how it is affected by 2030.

The United Nations’ SDG-8 promotes inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all (United Nations 2015). In his study, Sachs (2012) mentions that as MDGs fulfilled their schedule and appeared to be insufficient, SDGs were suggested to take their place, which was more detailed and comprehensive, although some of the SDGs do not have a corresponding MDG (2012). Due to the lack of existence for this development goal in the MDGs, economic development was included as an important item together with the SDGs. This goal involves some business themes: employment, economic inclusion, non-discrimination, capacity building, availability of a skilled workforce and elimination of forced or compulsory labour (“Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth”, 2016). The targets of SDG-8 are including economic growth sustainability per head for eligibility of national state of affairs and especially minimum 7% GDP growth in the countries with the least developed economies; diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, particularly an emphasis on high-value-added and labour-intensive sectors, will help countries achieve better levels of productivity. Also, targets of SDG-8 include micro, small and medium-sized businesses that encourage formalisation and expansion, especially via access to financial services through development-oriented policies that support constructive things, fair job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation. Progressively improvement of global resource consumption and production is also aimed. Additionally, achieving full and efficient employment, decent work and the same pay for work of the same value for all women and men and decreasing the youth rate not in training, education or employment is crucial. Lastly, SDG-8 targets design and applications for new policies to promote sustainable tourism; supporting local financial institutions capacity; aid for trade support for developing nations; creating and operationalising a worldwide youth employment strategy and putting it into action are the goals. The targets of SDG-8 are shown in Fig. 10.1.

Fig. 10.1
figure 1

Targets of SDG-8 “Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth” (2016)

The continuous increase in the population in the world causes concern about the use of natural resources and the fact that people can settle in suitable jobs to live at a certain level of welfare. On the other hand, technology disparities between countries, sectors and businesses are generally acknowledged as the major drivers of productivity inequalities (Acemoglu 2012). However, with the effect of technological developments, economic growth supports meeting human needs and keeping welfare high. Lastly, the models of endogenous innovation and technology have advanced significantly.

In this chapter, the importance and aim of SDG-8, some sub-targets, and the effects of COVID-19 on the urgency of SDG-8 will be explained along with statistical examples. SDG-8, decent work and economic growth aim to help build a sufficient and healthy economy and provide a job with satisfying work conditions for every person in need. Economic power is a key contributor to any other SDGs.

Economic growth depends on the increase in the total production in an economy. This production may be of goods or services required to meet human needs. One of the most critical targets of SDG-8 is “sustainable economic growth”, which represents building up the economy while caring for social and environmental issues for current and future generations ( de MELLO et al. 2020). Target 8.1, the first target of SDG-8, focuses on sustainable economic growth, which is usually not easy to predict, as it depends on many different parameters. Some of these parameters are usual (government policies, technological developments, new enterprises, global and local trends, etc.), while some are unpredictable scenarios. The pandemic of COVID-19 is such an example. In January 2020 (before the pandemic), the total GDP of the world was expected to grow by 2.5%. In June 2020, the forecasts had changed to a decrease of 5.2% (World Bank 2021). According to the World Bank (2021) data, the effects were enormous: In 2020, world trade volume had decreased roughly by 8.3% compared to the previous year.

SDG-8 contains economic growth and work opportunities with decent conditions for all. According to Embrapa (2020), Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, one of the main indicators of economic growth is the employment level. If economic growth sets back and fails to provide jobs to everyone in need, the policy environment will be considered insufficiently business-friendly (Frey 2017). Therefore, government and institutional policies for business will be subject to questioning. As a recent example, the effect of COVID-19 on people’s lives can be given. The disease has impacted economic growth and trade volume and employment opportunities. With the virus becoming a pandemic, many companies have downsized. Therefore, employment opportunities have gone down.

SDG-8 also aims to take immediate and effective steps of precaution to protect labour rights and end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking (de MELLO et al. 2020) . Decent work conditions are also major factors in people’s lives as they affect their physical and psychological well-being, income and social status. Therefore, SDG-8 is a matter to be considered vital for the development of society. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO 2006), “decent work” includes providing everyone access to “productive and quality work in freedom, equity, security and human dignity conditions”. Therefore, SDG-8 is also an essential contributor to maintaining human rights. The ILO framework for the measurement of decent work includes four main titles: “International labour standards and fundamental principles and rights at work”, “Employment creation”, “Social protection” and “Social dialogue and tripartism” (Stoian et al. 2019).

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous influence on job potential in nations across the globe. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council (2021), following an average of 2% growth from 2014 to 2018, real global GDP per capita expanded by only 1.3% in 2019 and is expected to decline by 5.3% in 2020 related to the pandemic’s damage. For the near future, post-pandemic global GDP per capita is expected to rise by 3.6% in 2021 and 2.6% in 2022. The economic growth is steadily rebounding; however, it may continue to lag behind pre-pandemic levels for some time. It has had devastating consequences not only for job opportunities but for many other SDG-8 objectives, such as working hours and income. To reverse this trajectory in the future, economies need to be transformed in ways that promote high productivity, such as shifting from low-yield agriculture to high-yield agriculture (Lambrechts and Stacy 2020). While the global economy improves, and workers’ living circumstances improve, inequities persist, and there aren’t enough jobs to keep up with the world’s expanding population (van den Breul et al. 2018).

10.1 Companies and Use Cases

Table 10.1 presents the business models of 37 companies and use cases that employ emerging technologies and create value in SDG-8. We should highlight that one use case can be related to more than one SDG and it can make use of multiple emerging technologies. In the left column, we present the company name, the origin country, related SDGs and emerging technologies that are included. The companies and use cases are listed alphabetically.Footnote 1

Table 10.1 Companies and use cases in SDG-8