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16/05/2018 – News / Environment / Sustainability / Green Economy / Employment / Global

24 million jobs set to open up in the green economy by 2030, forecasts new ILO report

Around 24 million new jobs will be created globally by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place, according to a new report published by the International Labour Organization (ILO) that explores environmental sustainability in the world of work.


According to ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs’, action to limit global warming to 2ºC will result in sufficient job creation to more than offset job losses of six million elsewhere.


New jobs will be created by adopting sustainable practices in the energy sector, including changes in the energy mix; promoting the use of electric vehicles and improving the energy efficiency of buildings.


Ecosystem services – including air and water purification soil renewal and fertilisation, pest control, pollination and protection against extreme weather conditions – sustain, among others, farming, fishing, forestry and tourism activities, which employ 1.2 billion workers. 


However, projected temperature increases will make heat stress, particularly in agriculture, more common. It can lead to several medical conditions, including exhaustion and stroke. The report calculates that heat stress will cause a 2-per-cent global loss in hours worked by 2030 due to sickness.


“The findings of our report underline that jobs rely heavily on a healthy environment and the services that it provides,” said ILO Deputy Director-General Deborah Greenfield, speaking at the report’s launch. “The green economy can enable millions more people to overcome poverty, and deliver improved livelihoods for this and future generations. This is a very positive message of opportunity in a world of complex choices.” 


Offsetting anticipated job losses


At the regional level, there will be net job creation in the Americas, Asia and the Pacific and Europe, representing some three million, 14 million and two million jobs respectively, as a result of measures taken in the production and use of energy alone.


In contrast, there could be net job losses in the Middle East (-0.48 per cent) and Africa (-0.04 per cent) if current trends continue, due to the dependence of those regions on fossil fuels and mining, respectively. 


The ILO’s new report calls on countries to take urgent action to train workers in the skills needed for the transition to a greener economy, and provide them with social protection that facilitates the transition to new jobs, contributes to preventing poverty and reduces the vulnerability of households and communities.


“Policy changes in these regions could offset the anticipated job losses or their negative impact,” stressed Catherine Saget, the lead author of the report. “Low- and some middle-income countries still need support to develop data collection, and both adopt and finance strategies towards a just transition to an environmentally sustainable economy and society – one that includes everyone, from all groups of society,” she added.


Other key findings


The report found that most sectors of the economy would benefit from net job creation: of the 163 economic sectors analysed, only 14 will suffer employment losses of more than 10,000 jobs worldwide.


Only two sectors – petroleum extraction and petroleum refining – show losses of one million or more jobs.


Some 2.5 million jobs will be created in renewables-based electricity, offsetting some 400,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.


Some 6 million jobs can be created by transitioning towards a ‘circular economy’, which includes activities like recycling, repair, rent and remanufacture – replacing the traditional economic model of ‘extracting, making, using and disposing’.


No gains without the right policies


Although measures to address climate change may result in short-term employment losses in some cases, their negative impact can be reduced through appropriate policies.


The report calls for synergies between social protection and environmental policies that support both workers’ incomes and the transition to a greener economy. A policy mix comprising cash transfers, stronger social insurance and limits on the use of fossil fuels would lead to faster economic growth, stronger employment creation and a fairer income distribution, as well as lower greenhouse gas emissions.


Countries should take urgent action to anticipate the skills needed for the transition to greener economies and provide new training programmes. The transition to more sustainable agricultural systems would create jobs in medium and large organic farms, and allow smallholders to diversify their sources of income, notably if farmers have the right skills.


The report also shows that environmental laws, regulations and policies that include labour issues offer a powerful means to advance the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda and environmental objectives.


“Social dialogue which allows employers and workers to participate in the political decision-making process alongside governments plays a key role in reconciling social and economic objectives with environmental concerns,” advised Ms Saget in closing. “There are cases in which such dialogue not only helped to reduce the environmental impact of policies but also avoided a negative impact on employment or working conditions,” she concluded.


Download the ‘World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs’ report here.

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