Social equity and inclusive growth

Our focus in this area looks at ensuring that infrastructure investment, procurement and construction has positive impacts on social equity and growth. This extends to the creation of decent and long-term jobs, engaging local professionals and contractors in the supply chain, and addressing key issues which are commonly found in infrastructure finance, design and build – such as gender equality and modern day slavery.

Promoting decent and long-term jobs

Decent work is fundamental to reducing poverty. For the vast majority of people the route out of poverty is through employment. Most countries that have succeeded in reducing poverty have followed strong employment creation policies. But sustained poverty reduction requires jobs to be productive and remunerative.

The concept of ‘Decent Work’ embraces the need for job creation while also promoting the right of women and men to productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. It is not sufficient to have a job – it must be a job that provides a living wage and protection against injury, stress and unfair treatment.

Our work on this issue

We have promoted the maximisation of employment in engineering and infrastructure projects and activities – particularly focussing on creating employment opportunities in low income countries and regions.

Research on infrastructure procurement and social development

In 2004 we collaborated with the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the ICE Presidential Commission ‘Engineering without Frontiers’ for a research project to identify opportunities to improve social development by modifying how public infrastructure projects are procured.

The research was based on the assumption that the way procurement is carried out and the details of the contracts entered into can have a significant impact on the performance of the asset and can contribute to the achievement of broader social and economic goals.

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Developing best practice guidelines for Labour-based methods and technologies

We have endorsed the work of the Construction Industry Development Board in developing best-practice guidelines for Labour-based methods and technologies for employment intensive construction works. The guidelines are premised on the understanding that employment opportunities can be optimised by adopting:

  • Labour-based methods of construction and manufacture where labour, utilising hand tools and light equipment, is preferred to the use of heavy equipment for specific activities; and
  • Labour-based technologies where there is a shift in balance between labour and equipment in the way the work is specified and executed for selected works components.

Promoting local content

Local content refers to the portion of goods and services sourced from domestic suppliers. Increasing local content helps to create jobs, promote enterprise development and improve education and training.

Our work promoting labour content in the extractive industries and infrastructure sector has examined how local employment can be enhanced through skills and competency development and through the local procurement of goods and services.

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Building engineering capacity and education

The engineering sector has an important role to play in mitigating challenging global issues such as poverty, climate change and sustainability. To build a robust sector and ensure it can help meet these challenges effectively, investing in engineering education and building capacity has become increasingly important.

Our work on this issue

Around the world, measures are being taken by educational institutions to strengthen the engineering sector. For example, forward-thinking higher education institutions have begun to adapt courses to equip graduates with the skills, knowledge and attitudes necessary to maximise the positive impact of engineering on.

In 2017 we partnered with engineering institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa to help build their capacity and strengthen the sector. This work was made possible with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering allocated to pilot projects as part of its ‘Africa Catalyst’ programme. The projects have ranged from advancing organisational development, developing standards and helping to tackle corruption.

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Key publications:

Health and safety in construction

In many countries the construction industry provides one of the main sources of waged employment, yet it is one of the most dangerous industries in which to work.

In addition to the risk of an accident, the health of construction workers is very likely to be damaged by exposure to dust, noise, vibration or chemicals, the effects of which may take many years to develop. In some parts of the world construction workers are also particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS due to over-representation of young men in the workforce and long periods spent away from home.

While securing a job in construction offers a potential route out of poverty for workers, their subsequent inability to work due to workplace injury, ill health or HIV-related infections may result in destitution or death.

Our work on this issue

Health and safety training in Tanzania

In 2007, with funding from the  Civil Society Challenge FundDepartment for International Development, we supported a project promoting Health and Safety (H&S) in construction in Tanzania. The project was implemented over a period of five years, providing intensive training to a core group of men and women drawn from major construction organisations. Using the knowledge and skills taught on the course, they were then able to carry out training with their peers, co-workers and employees.

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Briefing Note: Promoting Construction Health and Safety through Procurement

It is estimated that there are 60,000 fatal accidents a year on construction sites around the world, with many more workers suffering from work-related injuries and ill-health. A number of international agencies have been working to improve health and safety in the workplace and the main causes of death and injury are both well understood and entirely preventable. What is less well emphasised is how procurement procedures can be used to improve workplace health and safety. Our Briefing Note addresses this gap, explaining what measures can be taken at each stage of the construction procurement cycle.

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Our future work 

Over the coming year will be developing a series of policy and practice briefings covering critical issues relating to society equity and inclusive growth. The first is likely to look at the social and economic value brought from public infrastructure, with a focus on how improving labour standards contributes to this. Keep an eye on our website for updates on the briefings.