A market transformation from inefficient and polluting fuel-based lighting to solar-LED systems is well underway across the developing world, but the extent of net job creation has not previously been defined. This article finds that current worldwide employment associated with fuel-based lighting represents approximately 150,000 jobs. New jobs will accompany the replacement technologies. A survey of major solar-LED lighting companies finds that 38 such jobs are created for each 10,000 people living off-grid for whom stand-alone solar-LED lights are suitable. Applying this metric, the number of new jobs already created from the current uptake of solar-LED lighting has matched that of fuel-based lighting and foreshadows the potential creation of 2 million new jobs to fully serve the 112 million households globally that currently lack electricity access, are unlikely to be connected to the major grid, micro-grids, or are able to afford more extensive solar systems. A likely greater number of additional jobs and employment income will be indirectly created or preserved via indirect employment, re-spending of energy savings, conservation of foreign exchange, enhanced literacy, and improved working conditions. In contrast, central grid expansion is unlikely to provide any net increase in jobs. The case of solar-LED lighting demonstrates that policymakers have tools to increase the pace of in-country job creation in the context of sustainable development, while minimizing job displacement, and improving the quality of employment. These tools include stimuli for domestic manufacturing or assembly of products; supporting peripheral businesses and services, such as training, recycling, financing, and impact assessment; and removing market barriers that slow the uptake of emerging technologies.
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