Utilities (water, gas, electricity) sector

Utilities (water, electricity and gas) are essential services that play a vital role in economic and social development. Quality utilities are a prerequisite for effective poverty eradication. Governments are ultimately responsible for ensuring reliable universal access of service under accountable regulatory frameworks. Increased competition in the utilities sectors in recent years has entailed changes in regulatory frameworks and ownership structures of enterprises, in addition to business diversification. These have impacted job security and working conditions in the sector. Adequate staffing levels and training in the use of new technologies are important for ensuring efficiency and safety in the workplace.

Social dialogue plays a significant role in developing joint strategies by the social partners to improve utility services, with the common goal of extending access to services to all communities, enhancing efficiency of delivery and reviewing tariffs and other sources of income collection. One of the key issues in the Utilities sector is the need to respect international conventions protecting freedom of association and collective bargaining and to avoid breakdowns in the provision of utilities where possible.

The average age of workers in the sector is increasing in a number of countries and there is a severe gender imbalance in some occupations, which presents challenges for human resource planning by employers. Making employment in the sector accessible and attractive to young men and women can be a means to address the recruiting challenges of replacing an ageing workforce. In addition, establishing national or sector specific training programmes, and investing in workers through apprenticeships and lifelong learning mechanisms can be instrumental in meeting the demands of changing skills needs of the industry.


  1. Event

    World Water Day: Leaving no one behind - The ILO promotes skills and employment for Jordan’s female plumbers

    22 March 2019

    The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’. This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit. Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. By definition, this means leaving no one behind.

    In the ILO, we pay special attention to access to water and sanitation in the workplace; ensuring local water services through community contracting; reducing the burden of water fetching on women and girls; and providing job opportunities to women refugees as plumbers. The following story focuses on the latter.

  1. News

    ILO shares its message for a parallel event at the 63rd CSW on empowering women in waste management

    19 March 2019

  2. News

    A new ILO-Japan project to ensure water, jobs and peace in Mindanao, Philippines

    6 March 2019

  3. Event

    WASH4Work: Tools to Accelerate Business Action on WASH

    30 August 2018

    This event will look at how to better enable businesses to work independently and jointly with others to ensure effective delivery of WASH provision.

  4. Working Paper no. 314

    Wastewater and jobs: The Decent Work approach to reducing untreated wastewater

    This working paper discusses the potential of investments of wastewater and how they impact productivity, livelihoods, job creation, skills needs, occupational safety and health, and women’s employment. It further identifies the respective roles of the public and private sectors and of cooperatives.

  5. Action Programme on Strengthening Social Dialogue in the Utilities Sector