Social Sustainability- The Pillar of Sustainable Development

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By Ananya Joshi

When we think of sustainable development, what usually comes to mind is economic and environmental development. We often tend to overlook or disregard another important factor; social development. Moving towards a better developed and well-sustained society is not simply about the development and progress of natural factors, but also that of societal factors.

Social sustainability is how we work towards a better society and build a decent standard of living. Everything from health and social equity, gender equality, labor rights, human rights to ultimate empowerment of people is part of social sustainable development. It explores the many human aspects and problems to be solved for the betterment of society.

When we talk of basic human rights; freedom, liberty, privacy, we imply that all humans deserve these rights simply because of their humanity. Providing everyone with basic amenities- education, healthcare, a decent standard of living is a major step towards social sustainability.

What sustainable development wants is for each person to achieve their potential and contribute to society; present and future, in any way they can. By ensuring the implementation of fundamental rights and providing good quality of life, we contribute toward this goal.

Economic growth alone is not enough for the progress of a nation because it is usually upper classes earning huge amounts of money that contribute to the national income. It does not erase poverty and unemployment. What should be given more importance are labor rights.

Providing laborers adequate wages, ensuring decent working conditions, and safeguarding their rights will actually contribute to economic growth amongst people belonging to low-income groups, and in turn, will increase the economic development of the country. Creating good conditions for workers provides the incentive for them to do better work and fuels peoples’ creativity, ultimately, improving overall sustainability.

One extremely important component of socially sustainable development is gender equity and equality. For years and years, women continued to be the oppressed sex, being denied even those rights that are deemed basic to every human today.

Sustainability is all about the good and progress of society. But how are we moving forward if we believe one sex to be superior or inferior?

But in today’s world, such differences are reducing rapidly. Women are finding their voice and claiming their rightful place in society. Every day, we grow a step closer to achieving social equality.

Another major factor of social sustainability is providing education. Simply opening more schools is not enough to sustain development as the attendance and enrollment ratios remain less. Children have to be motivated and given incentives to learn and create good lives for themselves and others around them.

It is important to remember that all parameters of sustainable development are interrelated and interdependent. One does not advance or even exist without the other. If good education and equality of opportunity are provided to everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, every person will have a chance to work and earn a living for themselves.

Poverty and unemployment will lessen and augment economic growth. This is how social sustainability leads to economic development which in turn fulfills the goal of sustainable development. Researchers need to place more emphasis on socially sustainable development to make sure people are aware and do their part in helping the world progress and creating better societies for the generations to come.

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