There is no life without water. Yet it is not often mentioned that the availability and sustainable management of water has a direct link with the creation of quality jobs. The theme of 2016 World Water Day – Better water, better jobs – aims to highlight how water can create paid and decent work while contributing to a greener economy and sustainable development.
Today, almost half of the world's workers, or about 1.5 billion people, work in water-related sectors. Around 650 million people (one in 10 of the world's population) do not have access to safe water, putting them at risk of infectious diseases and premature death. Dirty water and poor sanitation can cause severe diarrhoeal diseases in children, killing 900 under-fives a day across the world, according to United Nations estimates – or one child every two minutes.
The availability and quality of water has a direct impact on workers' lives. Every year over 340,000 workers die because of inadequate water supply and sanitation. Fishermen depend on the quality of fresh water, while a farmer's job depends on the ability to manage the available freshwater. In factories, 38 workers die from water-related diseases every hour, which can be prevented with cleaner water and sanitation.
Women and often children have to trek for hours every day to bring home water for their families. However, despite its importance, it is a chore which is not remunerated nor recognised. However, if availability of water was guaranteed, they could be learning skills that would help them to find better work. This is why the 2016 World Water Day theme — water and jobs — is so important. It is focusing on how enough quantity and quality of water can change workers' lives and livelihoods – and even transform societies and economies.
This article was first published on March 20, 2016