The latest World Water Development Report addresses the pervasive relationship between water and jobs, including in industry. It shows how water affects workers’ lives through its presence, its quality and its quantity, and how investments in water and sanitation can create paid and decent jobs, thereby contributing to a greener economy.
The report estimates that well over one billion jobs, representing more than 40 per cent of the world’s total active workforce, are heavily water-dependent. Such jobs are found in agriculture, forestry, inland fisheries, mining and resource extraction, power generation and water supply and sanitation, as well as in several manufacturing and transformation industries including food, pharmaceuticals and textiles.
Another billion jobs, representing over one third of the world’s total active workforce, are likely to be moderately water-dependent. Examples of sectors with moderately water dependent jobs include construction, recreation, transportation and manufacturing/transformation industries such as wood, paper, rubber/plastics and metals.
Industry, an important source of decent employment, provides almost 500 million jobs worldwide, which is about a fifth of the world’s workforce. Within the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries in 2014, industry, including construction, employed 125.6 million people and manufacturing another 70.6 million. Worldwide, some of the most water-intensive industry sectors employ great numbers of people: 22 million in food and drink (with 40 per cent women); 20 million in chemical, pharmaceutical, and rubber and tires; and 18 million in electronics. Overall, industry (including energy) uses about 19 per cent of the world’s total water withdrawal.
According to the report, by 2050 manufacturing alone could increase its use by 400 per cent. Industry’s water-dependence ranges from the large users in food and beverage and the mining industry to small and medium enterprises. Water use is further expanded if the total water footprint (particularly the supply chain) of an industry or individual facility is considered. Water scarcity can have very serious effects on some major industrial sectors. Industry must have a reliable quantity of water of suitable quality for its use and has to manage it at least adequately, if not efficiently, says the report.