India's EV sector can create greener jobs and a skilled workforce, fundamental for a just transition

Opening remarks by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi, at ICAT on World Day for Safety and Health at Work 2023

Statement | Haryana, India | 28 April 2023
I am delighted to join you today on the occasion of World Safe Day and contribute towards the discussion on the potential of the EV sector as a growth engine for India. To do so, I would like to bring your attention to 3 key areas, which can help the EV sector to be a significant contributor to the Indian economy.

First, today is the World Safe Day, and this year theme is about promoting and enabling “safe and healthy working environment” for all. In June 2022 at the 110th International Labour Conference of the ILO, the delegates of 186 member countries adopted the inclusion of the principle of a “safe and healthy working environment” to the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. This means that member countries of the ILO, including India, are obligated to work towards making progressive improvements to promote safety and health for all workers, irrespective of the level of economic development in a country.

The ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) had initially recognized 4 fundamental rights at work – which are: (1) freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; (2) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (3) the effective abolition of child labour; and (4) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. These rights are “inseparable, inter-related and mutually reinforcing”. As a fifth principle and right, ensuring safe and healthy working environment now enjoys a similar relationship. In this context, India should also explore the ratification of the two core OSH conventions, namely Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 1981 (No. 155) and Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187).

And this brings me to the second area of my discussion on enabling fair and sustainable global and domestic supply chains for the EV sector. In trade negotiations, ratification of the ILO Core Conventions is a way for the country to demonstrate their capability to ensure protection of workers. While ratification of core ILO conventions including the OSH conventions enable greater acceptability of the products manufactured in the countries and exported to the global markets, for the EV sector to be a lead runner contributing to the domestic and global economy, decent work needs to be ensured not just in the large enterprises, but down the supply chain, reaching up to the second and third tiers of suppliers. That gives more challenges for the industry, related to labour, raw material, and production processes. The supply chains need to be fair and sustainable, and focus on promoting decent work and fundamental rights at work, including occupational safety and health. Participation of businesses in GSCs can enable many paths for the development of the country including employment, technology advancement and transfer, skilling, capacity enhancement, diversification etc. and open doors for FDI.

And this brings me to the third area of my discussion, where EV sector can be a driving force to create greener jobs and build a skilled workforce which will contribute towards the greening of the economy and reducing emissions and carbon footprints by responsibly managing the environment, and skills in clean energy. For the ILO, the concept of green jobs summarizes the transformation of economies, workplaces, enterprises and labour markets into a low-carbon, sustainable economy that provides decent employment opportunities for all. The Renewable Energy and Jobs: Annual Review Report (2022) by ILO and International Renewable Energy Agency recognized the worldwide employment in renewable energy is 12.7 million. India shares 7% of such jobs. So the employment potential is immense.

The shift to a low carbon and sustainable society must be equitable; it must be a “Just Transition”. In case of EV sector, like many other sectors, there are changes that are needed. It is imperative that policies should be put in place to ensure that those likely to be negatively affected are protected. Social dialogue is a critically important component of a Just Transition, especially in the workplace where the voices of both workers and employers are needed to determine the design of new sustainable production systems and work practices. In some instances, employers and workers are beginning to work together in greening the workplace, building on a long tradition of collaborating on occupational safety and health and other issues.

This movement towards a green economy has created more opportunities for clean technology, green investments and green jobs. This requires human capital, including women and workers from vulnerable communities, youth, marginalized groups to be skilled, re-skilled, upskilled to match the requirements emerging in the labour market. This can help inclusive development and contributes towards more and better and employment, greater returns on investments on training and increased productivity.

Finally, I thank you and Ministry of Heavy Industries to invite me today on the occasion of Safe Day and to discuss about the potential of EV sector as a growth engine. I wish you all a productive discussion today.