World Day for Safety and Health at Work: Supporting young entrepreneurs to become champions of Decent Work

This World Day for Safety and Health at Work shines a light on some of the key pillars of decent work threatened by the COVID-19 pandemic: occupational health and safety, decent wages and social security protections.

As a recognised UN partner for impacting Sustainable Development Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth as well as the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth, YBI is committed to addressing these challenges and helping young entrepreneurs become champions of decent work.

In late 2020, we embarked on a decent work agenda with our members Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust (BYST) and Bangladesh Youth Enterprise Advice and Helpcentre (B’YEAH) to understand decent work in the Indian and Bangladeshi context with support from Catalystas Consulting and funded by IKEA Foundation. As part of this work, BYST and B’YEAH piloted our decent work curriculum with young entrepreneurs to help them embed decent work principles into their businesses.

Over the course of the pilot, it became clear that young entrepreneurs have a desire to operate a responsible business, both from a legal and ethical point of view. What was lacking was knowledge and understanding as to what decent work means as well as access to tools and resources—particularly financial resources—to put principles into action. Many saw the application of decent work principles, like investing in health and safety measures or providing social security benefits, as too costly and lacked understanding of how such measures relate to issues like employee acquisition and retention. Yet there was an appetite for learning and practical tools.

With this in mind, four key priorities emerged in making decent work content relevant and appealing to young entrepreneurs:

  • Build the case for decent work as essential for business growth and sustainability: Emphasise how it addresses the challenges of employee retention and motivation, as well as positively impacting worker productivity, job stability, and company competitiveness.
  • Position the content in the context of human rights: This will resonate emotionally with young entrepreneurs, particularly those who have been disadvantaged or faced marginalisation in their lives.
  • Recognise that young entrepreneurs are not homogeneous: Content needs to be relevant and applicable to different entrepreneurial models and needs – from ideation stage to more established businesses, from solopreneurs to businesses with employees
  • Reinforce principles of good communication and transparency as core business values: Young entrepreneurs need to engage with customers, suppliers, and their employees about decent work challenges and opportunities to pave a path for decent, living wages as well as ways to build the business model to offset those costs and reinforce principles around creating safe places to work, being a good employer, wages and benefits, and roles and responsibilities.

In 2021, BYST and B’YEAH will continue to roll out the decent work curriculum to support young entrepreneurs to become responsible businesses leaders – like Supriya Nale and Salman Islam Rony:

“I am excited to attend the decent work training. I want to learn about safety measures and want to grow my business in the right way. By learning this I will become a responsible employer.”

Supriya Nale, Founder of Chaitanya Milk and Milk Products, India (Supported by BYST)

“My goal is always to have a safe and secure workplace, because I want to be recognised as a good employer and a responsible supplier.”

Salman Islam Rony, Founder of Cloud 11, Bangladesh (Supported by B’YEAH)

In addition, we have adapted the curriculum to a global audience and delivered the first cohort of our decent work training to the wider YBI membership in March 2021 with five participating members from four countries.

The goal of this training is to equip YBI members with the knowledge and tools they need to adapt the decent work curriculum to their local context and culture and deliver it to the young entrepreneurs they support.

Benson Macharia from our Kenyan member CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (YEI) and Inesa Asatryan from our Armenian member Jinishian Memorial Foundation (JMF) have shared their feedback on the training:

“YBI’s decent work training came at a time of great concern for the future of work, with many employees unfairly laid off, underpaid and abused. At CAP YEI, we are committed to embedding decent work principles in our support for young entrepreneurs so they can create safe workspaces and decent work for all employees.”

Benson Macharia, Entrepreneurship Programme Coordinator, CAP YEI, Kenya

“At the decent work training, we learned how to embed modules on workplace safety, anti-discrimination, decent working hours, and fair salaries in our training for young entrepreneurs. We are now adapting these modules to the local context and culture in Armenia to help young entrepreneurs become responsible employers.”

Inesa Asatryan, Economic Development Project Officer, Jinishian Memorial Foundation, Armenia

To find out more about our decent work research and curriculum, read our learning brief “Building the next generation of responsible businesses and leaders”.

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