Income and employment from services
Improved basic infrastructure services in slums can result in income and employment benefits for
the residents of the affected areas. This technical brief has outlined the three main mechanisms
through which income gains may arise, focussing principally on direct income benefits to those
who act as service providers. Indirect income benefits which accrue to the users of improved
services have been covered to a lesser extent, and NGOs should be aware of the mechanisms
shown in Table 1 so as to promote ways in which these benefits may be realised to the fullest.
Using labour-based technology and community contracting approaches, employment creation can
be maximised during the construction phase of infrastructure services. Direct employment gains
may be short, but they are supplemented by wider economic and employment benefits. Careful
supervision is required to ensure the final quality of construction, and specifics regarding
stakeholders, funding, and community roles/levels of involvement must be considered before
engaging in community contracting.
The operation, maintenance and management phase of infrastructure service provision provides a
number of possibilities for direct income gains. Community-managed models are commonly
adopted for slum infrastructure improvements, and may or may not include elements of paid
service provision for caretakers and operators. Evidence suggests that purely volunteer-based
models are less likely to be sustainable, although this may need further research and
understanding, as there are a number of social factors which may dictate these to be the most
suitable systems to adopt. Sustainability may be enhanced by forming partnerships between
CBOs and NGOs, agreeing detailed arrangements for O&M at the planning stages. These
agreements should involve all stakeholders, including local municipal authorities. Ways to enforce
the agreements as well as incentives and mutual benefits should also be considered.
It is important to remember that slums do not exist in isolation, and NGOs should consider the
role that existing service providers from the wider urban poor can play in the construction,
operation, maintenance and management of urban services. Outsourcing of tasks to such
providers by CBOs can represent a solution in the event of waning volunteer motivation, and it is
the logical choice when a skills gap exists in the community. It can also be the most appropriate
choice in the case of occasional or one-off water and sanitation services, whose providers rely on
servicing a geographically diverse range of clients in order to meet the minimum number required
to be viable.
Finally, potential income and employment benefits are unlikely to be fully realised by chance, and
NGOs should incorporate these concepts into the early stages of planning for infrastructure
service improvements so as to maximise the impact they can have on poverty alleviation for the
Further details and acknowledgements
Much of this technical brief is based upon research carried out as part of an MSc course at the
Water, Engineering and Development Centre (WEDC) at Loughborough University, UK. The author
wishes to thank Rebecca Scott at WEDC for her role in supervising the research project. Anyone
wishing for a copy of the MSc research thesis should please contact WEDC at WEDC@lboro.ac.uk.
References and further reading
Ahmed, R. (2003) DSK: a model for securing access to water for the urban poor. WaterAid
fieldwork report, WaterAid: London, UK.
Blagbrough, V. (ed.) (2001) Looking back: The long-term impacts of water and sanitation
projects. WaterAid: London UK.
Colin, J. and Lockwood, H. (2002) Making Innovation Work through Partnerships in Water
and Sanitation Projects. Research and Surveys Series. Business Partners for Development (BPD)
Water and Sanitation Cluster: London, UK.
Collignon, B., and Vézina, M. (2000) Independent Water and Sanitation Providers in African
Cities. Full Report of a Ten-Country Study. UNDP-World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme