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Green Collar Jobs: The Present and Future

Rangam Jul 25, 2023 6:42:54 AM
A human looking at the future with a print of green nature on it represents the green jobs - the present and the future

Nature and work are fundamentally connected. While our lives depend on the natural environment, our business activities and jobs depend on a healthy planet. Over the last decade, green technologies have witnessed rapid innovation that has led to a significant reduction in the overall carbon footprint and cost-cutting in almost all businesses. Green jobs have emerged as a pillar to usher in a more sustainable economy and as a protector of the planet.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), "Green jobs are decent jobs that contribute to preserve or restore the environment, be they in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, or in new, emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency."

Importance of green jobs

The sixth assessment report prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), highlighted human activity as the primary cause behind climate change. The report, at the same time, insisted that there's still time to act and prevent the worst from happening. As such, we must act now, with a focus on the global economy. The labor market, understandably, will be a cornerstone of the transformation because it involves all the sides that hold the key to a green transition: government authorities, workers, and public and private corporations.

Considering the situation, humankind needs to expedite the transition towards a de-carbonized economy that respects the environment. Such a transition has the potential to halt climate change and, at the same time, become a real growth driver by creating green collar jobs across sectors. The circular economy that involves recycling, reusing, repurposing, and increasing sustainable production and consumption, would also generate green jobs. Besides reducing waste, the circular economy saves energy and contributes to preventing the irreversible damage to climate, and air, water, and soil pollution caused by the exploitation of natural resources at a faster rate than the planet can replace.

Impact on employment   

The shift to a greener economy is already creating employment opportunities in various industries. An ILO study claims that a mere 0.5% to 2% employment gains in green collar jobs would translate to the generation of at least 15 million additional jobs globally. But at the same time, job losses are expected to occur in some sectors. Almost 1% of the workforce in industrialized countries could be affected because of the transition to a greener economy.

It can be safely said that a greener economy will have the potential to create thousands of jobs. However, downsizing may also happen in industries that are emission-intensive. While it's difficult to predict the impact it will have on the job market as national realities differ, studies claim that the net effect would be positive.

Shifting to a greener economy won't be homogenous and inclusive by default. Labor market policies will have to complement the environmental and economic policies to absorb the downside of transitioning into a green economy. A positive progression at a national level would also depend on policy coordination and retraining and up-skilling workers.

Opportunities so far

With the public becoming increasingly aware of climate change and realizing the pressing need to reduce carbon footprint, the demand for renewable energy, efficient heating systems, and electric and hybrid cars is rising. Leading global labor market analyst Lightcast, in its report, revealed that the demand for solar sales representatives and solar installers increased by 70% and 56% respectively between 2019 and 2020. Core green jobs had the highest demand in 2022. These included energy conservation engineers, environmental compliance specialists, environmental engineers, and soil conservationists. However, some job titles were less direct, like permit writers and home energy auditors. 

Looking at the economy as a whole, majority of the green-specific job postings were for the roles of power system engineers, electrical engineers, and electricians. That aside, top green skills required in 2022 included waste management, recycling, environmental laws and climate engineering.

What the numbers say

The ILO, in its 2018 report, estimated that 24 million green collar jobs will be created by 2030 because of new climate change policies and commitments. Green talent in the US workforce grew from 9.6% in 2015 to 13.31% in 2021, says the LinkedIn Global Green Skills Report 2022. Similarly, the Local Government Association of UK has predicted that 700,000 job roles involving green skills will be created by 2030. Experts believe that the global demand for oil peaked in 2019. This means we must now prepare for a low-carbon future that rides on the green economy.


The sharp rise in green collar jobs over the past few years indicates that the trend will continue in the future. It will have a profound impact on the labor market. Some sectors will require workers with green skills to ensure that they are meeting the legal requirements on waste management and carbon emission. But the impact won't come to fruition unless there's an understanding of green skills and how employees can be up-skilled to fit into green roles, and the resources required in this regard.

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