Benefits, hygiene, Sanitation, Water

Human capital and WASH – a note

Possible mechanisms by which WASH increases human capital

In labour economics, human capital is a worker’s stock of knowledge and skills which contributes to their productivity and earnings. Human capital accumulation is a process of developing skills within and beyond cognitive domains, in which the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are crucial.

In a note on this topic available here, I present a conceptual model (shown above) for the relationship between improvements in WASH services and increased human capital. Three pathways are proposed: early childhood development; all-age health capital; and school.

The early childhood development pathway is likely to be most important, due to its far-reaching and long-lasting implications for human capital. I also review some recent evidence linking sanitation and early childhood cognitive development published since the last systematic review on this topic.

[I’ve started writing longer “notes” like this on certain topics, which are not quite working papers but longer than blogposts. Feedback/critique is most welcome!]

1 thought on “Human capital and WASH – a note”

  1. Dear Ian

    I recently retired after working for more than 33y with one of the leading conglomerates in the Philippines. I spent more than 25y seconded to Manila Water, a full-service private operator in the East Zone of Metro Manila with subsidiaries in SE Asia and in the KSA. I handled public policy and regulation, business development and chief operating role for the company.

    I also completed my board directorship with the International Water Association, the UK-based organization of water professionals from 2018 to 2022. I continue to be a member of IWA.

    IWA is an organization with over 10,000 members and comprised of Specialist Groups (SGs) where members with common interests such as urban utility, water resources, wastewater treatment and reuse etc are provided a platform to exchange ideas. There are around 52 SGs as of the latest count but I noticed, much to my surprise, I could not find a SG on Water and Human Capital. I plan to propose the creation of SG on the topic to the IWA board shortly. My current focus is how to enhance the human capital capacity of the water and sanitation sector so it is able to meet its SDG6 goals. Perhaps we can expand the focus and scope of the SG to include the framework you described in your post above – Human Capital and WASH.

    I will appreciate your thoughts.

    With warm regards,



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