The 2019 edition of the European Commission’s flagship analytical report Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) was released in July, dedicated to the theme of sustainability. On September 10, the European Trade Union Institute hosted a conference to discuss Chapter 5 of that report, titled “Towards a greener future: employment and social impacts of climate change policies”. The chapter, downloadable from this link , focuses on three aspects of environmental and social sustainability in the EU: 1. the definitions and discussion framework of green jobs and occupations in the EU economy; 2. the key findings of recent studies of the expected impacts on employment, skills, income and task structures of jobs in a clean transition; and 3. energy poverty and the link between climate action, air pollution and human health. In general, the chapter states that the transition to a climate-neutral economy is expected to provide additional jobs in growing, green(ing) sectors both in industry and services, including construction, waste management and sustainable finance, but will require significant reskilling and labour reallocation across sectors and occupations, with careful and early policy intervention required to ensure success. Opinions from the ETUI discussants is summarized here , including the view that the chapter may underestimate the costs of transition.
Training for “greenable jobs”
Chapter 5 of the EU report states that “Analysis of task content also shows that green jobs vary in ‘greenness’, with very few jobs only consisting of green tasks, suggesting that the term ‘green’ should be considered a continuum rather than a binary characteristic. While it is easier to transition to indirectly green rather than directly green jobs, greening is likely to involve transitions on a similar scale and scope of existing job transitions. Non-green jobs generally appear to differ from their green counterparts in only a few skill-specific aspects, suggesting that most re-training can happen on-the-job.”
Appendix 1 of Chapter 5 (p. 36) highlights four recent studies on the “greenness of jobs” with one North American study: Bowen et al. “Characterising green employment: The impacts of ‘greening’ on workforce composition” which appeared in Energy Economics in May 2018. Using the U.S. O*NET database and its definition of green jobs, the paper estimates that “19.4% of U.S. workers could currently be part of the green economy in a broad sense, although a large proportion of green employment would be ‘indirectly’ green, comprising existing jobs that are expected to be in high demand due to greening, but do not require significant changes in tasks, skills, or knowledge.”
O*NET describes itself as “the primary source of occupational information” for the United States, part of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration. O*NET counts any occupation that will be affected by greening as a greenable job, and defines three subcategories, according to the effect that greening will have on the tasks, skills, and knowledge required for the job – namely changing skill green occupations (e.g. construction workers and farmers); higher demand green occupations (e.g. bus and train drivers and renewable energy engineers); and new green occupations (e.g. energy and sustainability auditors and sustainable finance managers).