Questions and Answers

Q&As on: The use of geographic information systems (GIS) in employment impact assessments

The STRENGTHEN2 project, a joint initiative of the ILO and the European Union, is investigating the use of geographic information systems (GIS) for employment impact assessments of infrastructure investments in sub-Saharan Africa. This Q&A provides insights on the potential for operationalising GIS in employment impact assessments with other available data to determine the impact on employment creation.

Article | 24 February 2023
What are Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?        
Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are systems that include capturing, storing, processing, managing, analysing and presenting geographic or geospatial data , which is data that includes information on location. Examples of geospatial data could include locations of roads, elevation, or satellite images of the Earth.

The STRENGTHEN2 project works in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and will be exploring the use of GIS in specific infrastructure projects. How can GIS analysis be applied to help measure the employment impact of investments in infrastructure across a range of sectors?
GIS analysis can assist in answering questions relating to the impact of infrastructure investments, for example, how has access to the labour market improved due to a new road being built? or how has crop productivity increased from an area benefitting from irrigation? This can provide insight into the long-term impacts that investments in infrastructure have created for the population. GIS data, such as night-time lights satellite imagery can be used as a proxy for economic activity and translated into employment, and this can be harnessed to understand the local-level impacts from specific investments.

What value does this provide both today and in the future, and why is this important?
Understanding how infrastructure investments affects employment outcomes is important for assessing impact which can feed into the future planning of investments, to promote the creation of more and better jobs. Conducting employment impact assessments also provides insight into ‘how’ employment has been impacted, but the added spatial component of GIS provides ‘where’, to understand how impacts vary down to small geographic areas and which populations have benefitted the most. This also highlights were gaps still exist, for future intervention and policy setting, to ensure further initiatives are targeting those that need it the most.

How would the project combine information obtained from GIS analysis with other available data to determine the impact on employment creation?
More typically traditional data sources of survey data, such as Labour Force Surveys (LFS), provide valuable information on employment and often include a geographic component. These are not only limited to the number of jobs but also provide indicators related to the quality of employment. Combining this data with insights from the GIS analysis, such as access to the labour market from a new road being constructed, enables us to understand the impact of such improved access  on employment outcomes for the affected population.  For countries where this survey data may not be available or accessible, satellite data, such as night-time lights, can be used as a supplemental proxy for evaluating economic activity and employment.

How will the project tailor the use of GIS in SSA, which sectors will be targeted and why?
GIS lends itself to project sectors that have a spatial component, such as the transport sector. STRENGTHEN2 will focus on projects such as new or improved roads, to measure the increase access to markets or other social infrastructure and how this influences employment outcomes. The agriculture sector is also being explored, using GIS to measure changes from irrigation or other schemes. GIS could also be used to look at changes in access to electricity, from projects in the energy sector. Combining these indicators with LFS data, is key for understanding the changes in employment outcomes related to quality. This is particularly relevant in SSA, where due to high underemployment, we may see changes in shifts between sectors, wages, occupations and job quality, rather than only in the sheer number of jobs created.

Could you give us examples of some of the most popular sources for globally available datasets that could be valuable for analysing the employment impacts of infrastructure investments?
Night-time lights- Satellite images that show light emissions at night and can be used as a proxy for economic activity. Data is available globally and at monthly or annual time intervals, with historic data available over the last +10 years. Data can be accessed from NASA.

Satellite imagery – Satellite images of the Earth, which can be used to look at the progress of infrastructure investments and monitor changes over time. There are many data sources, but popular freely available satellites include Sentinel-2, Landsat and MODIS. Data can be accessed from USGS.

OpenStreetMap- OpenStreetMap is a global repository of geographic data which is updated by volunteers. It includes a lot of data related to infrastructure, such as digitized roads, health centres and schools.

At the end of the S2 project, what contributions would you hope to have made with respect to GIS and its use in employment impact assessments (EmpIA)?
Although there has been some research into using GIS analysis to look at the impacts of infrastructure investments, particularly roads, it is not yet operationalised when it comes to conducting employment impact assessments (EmpIA). As part of the S2 project, it is hoped that there will be greater visibility for the use of the methodology in EmpIA. GIS provides a way to assess the long-term outcomes of these projects, at the local level, which is not covered by existing economic methods for measuring employment impacts. It is hoped that the S2 project highlights the potential of this data and that the work will be further replicated to promote the institutionalization of such methods within financing bodies, development banks and other stakeholders interested in assessment employment impact.