20th February is observed each year as the World Day of Social Justice. This international day recognising the international importance of social justice through different cultures and communities was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2007. This day was coined as an international day to recognise the need to promote social justice, including efforts to address issues such as poverty, gender inequality and unemployment. Every year, there is a theme assigned to the day. In 2022, the theme of the World Day of Social Justice is ‘Achieving Social Justice through Formal Employment”.
So what is the World Day of Social Justice and why is it important?
Social justice refers to fairness in society manifested through the wealth distribution, opportunities and privileges within a society. The United Nations describes social justice as “an underlying principle for peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations,”. This means that the idea of social justice can be relatively vague and apply to many facets of life. Social justice is integral in taking actions to ensure equality for marginalized groups around the world who are not in a position to exercise their human rights fully.
The World Day of Social Justice attempts to address a wide range of pressing issues such as poverty, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights and social protections. In creating the World Day, the Assembly understood and recognised the need to further their efforts internationally in eliminating poverty, advocating for gender equality, promoting full and proper employment and access to social well-being for all.
Through climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, technological development and globalization, the world is changing rapidly. This creates more inequality and exclusion. Social justice is even more critical due to this ride of inequality and exclusion as a result of the fast-paced nature of the world around us.
What does the 2022 theme, achieving social justice through formal employment, mean?
To engage with the World Day of Social Justice 2022 theme, it is integral to understand what informal employment is and how it can cause issues. Informal employment refers to a part of the economy that is not taxed or monitored by any form of government. Informal employment is often associated with lower rates of productivity, reduced tax revenues, poor governance, increased exploitation and lack of employee benefits, excessive regulations, poverty and income inequality. It is also integral to realise that formal employment does not solve all of these issues outlined. Formal employment can also be exploitative and not treat their workers well. In order to achieve social justice, employment must be fair, not just formal.
However, the UN reports that over 60% of the world's employed population earn their livelihoods through the informal economy. This means that over 2 billion men, women and youth earn their livelihoods in the informal economy, contributing to the issues discussed above. Informal employment harms both these individuals and the economy. However, often, individuals are forced to work informally simply because this is what is available to them and they need to generate income for themselves and their families.
Informal works often lack any form of social protection or employment-related benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has played a huge role in exposing the vulnerability of these workers. A study conducted by the International Labour Organisation found that in the three states they studied, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, and Uttar Pradesh, approximately 45% of enterprises laid off workers either temporarily or permanently, while 85% of the workers reported not having access to any social security. This study investigated workers in both the formal and informal industry. The pandemic has resulted in a plethora of layoffs and employment changes, leaving informal workers in an unfortunate and dangerous position, they are twice as likely to be poor compared to formal workers. The unpredictability of the pandemic has increased the vulnerability of informal workers as they are not protected by law.
What is Saathi’s role?
Saathi strives to achieve equality, and therefore inherently social justice through our hiring initiatives. Saathi’s manufacturing unit employs underprivileged women in order to empower them and give them an opportunity. This exposure to formal employment is critical to upholding equality, particularly between genders and socio-economic classes. These women now have access to a reliable source of employment and therefore income. A reliable source of income promotes formal employment for disadvantaged women, allowing them to reap the employment and health benefits of formal employment. This opportunity allows women, who may have otherwise had no choice but to enter informal employment, a stream of reliable, legal income. This income was used largely as a way to send their girls to school.
Saathi aims to continue to provide formal employment to disadvantaged women, empowering them and their families.
In our ever changing world, rapidly evolving through technology, globalization and the pandemic, fair employment systems are increasingly important to ensure social justice and equality for all.
Saathi hopes to continue to do our part in promoting gender-equal, fair employment through empowering disadvantaged women in our factories. We hope to bring stability and empowerment to as many women as possible.
This issue is not widely discussed but Saathi hopes to bring light and awareness regarding the severity of this issue and the potential vulnerability of informal workers.
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Saathi, an award-winning social venture has patented technology to convert agri-waste into absorbent materials. It is known for its 100% biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads made from banana and bamboo fibers. Saathi pads are better for the body🩸, community 🌎 and environment 🌱. We are on a mission to make products sustainably and responsibly.
We are recognized by the New York Times Climate Hub, UNESCO Green Citizens project, University of St. Andrews, Solar Impulse Foundation, and Global Cleantech Innovation Program among others for our innovative, social impact, and sustainable work. We are working towards 9 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).