India's progress in connecting drinking water to households has resulted in decent work opportunities

Introductory remarks at the release of the Study on Assessment of Employment Potential of the Jal Jeevan Mission by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director/OIC, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi.

Statement | New Delhi, India | 10 August 2023
First of all, let me congratulate the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation and the Jal Jeevan Mission for the progress of connecting drinking water to rural households. The Jal Jeevan Mission with its aim to provide every rural household with quality drinking water is indeed one of the most essential and ambitious public investment projects undertaken by the Government of India. We also commend DDWS and Jal Jeevan Mission for taking the initiative to conduct a number of socio-economic studies to measure the impact of the intervention. The ILO has in this regard provided input to the study that is being presented today, carried out by the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, on behalf of the Jal Jeevan Mission, attempting to estimate the direct and indirect employment generated through the construction, operation and maintenance of the water supply schemes. The infrastructure sector has vast potential to drive growth and developing countries, including India, are investing in this sector to achieve full growth potential and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The achievement of most of the SDGs is indeed influenced by the availability or improvement of related infrastructure, and these infrastructure investments will have important impacts on employment and the labour market. Whenever investments in large infrastructure projects are made, there is a multiplier effect on the economy, and the construction industry has great employment absorption potentials. The India construction sector is the second-largest employment generator after agriculture and a large proportion of these workers are unskilled and, for many, including women, construction is the entry point to paid labour.

Public investment programmes generally encompass specific development goals, such as economic growth, poverty reduction and environmental protection, and in this case universal access to potable drinking water. At the same time, such programmes can also be used as instruments to promote employment creation and income generation, in particular for selected vulnerable groups in society. However, the employment potential and impact of public policies and investments are not always well understood by policymakers and practitioners. While policymakers and practitioners generally acknowledge the importance of job creation, the employment effects are seldom quantified, qualified or monitored. Because of this, there have been many instances where the projected employment effects are inaccurate or where claims of jobs created are not supported by credible evidence. While short-term job creation is seldom the primary objective of an infrastructure investment, enhancing qualitative and quantitative employment outcomes is increasingly seen as one of the developmental impacts of infrastructure investments that need to be optimized. For this reason, there is an increasing interest in assessing and capturing these effects.

For the ILO, working to increase and enhance the employment outcomes of such investments is core to its mandate. Globally, there is an increased interest in monitoring these employment impacts so that these can be better understood and factored into National Development Plans and National Employment Policies. At the same time such knowledge can help to strengthen the use of infrastructure investment as a policy response to the negative employment effects of economic downturns and other types of crises. EmpIoyment Impact Assessment facilitate the understanding of the employment impacts of infrastructure investments. Through informing policymakers about how infrastructure investments impact on the various dimensions of employment and the labour market, they support the development of evidence-based pro-employment infrastructure and environmental policies and strategies that are appropriate to the context of the local or national economy.

Measuring and monitoring employment effects of any intervention is generally challenging, because employment has a multi-dimensional nature as well as various qualitative and quantitative features. The work on Employment Impact Assessments has evolved in recent years, and ILO is working with academics, policymakers and practitioners to develop, modify and apply tools and economic models to conduct these assessments. Using these methods, employment impacts are generally disaggregated by:

• direct employment
• indirect employment
• induced employment, and
• spin off/wider development impact.

The study report being released today covers the first two categories, direct and indirect employment created from the construction and operations of the drinking water schemes. As I mentioned in the beginning, Jal Jevan Mission is carrying out a number of other impact assessments which will also capture information on additional spin-off effects. Taking note of the study limitations, we are pleased to share the result with a larger set of stakeholders today.