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Towards a greener and fairer society

Climate change means that resource scarcity and environmental degradation have become major, and urgent, challenges. In response, the ILO is promoting the concept of green jobs as a driving force towards a greener and fairer development path that can support economic and social development at a sustainable level. By Vincent Jagault, Senior Specialist in Environment and Decent Work, ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Article | 01 November 2011

Ms Nilufa, a resident of Chakdewla village, Mymensingh District, Bangladesh, knows that greener jobs bring real benefits.

She enrolled in the Women Technician Training Programme on Solar Home Systems, organized by the ILO for housewives and other women. The training was specifically designed for women from poor backgrounds who wanted to work in their village as solar technicians. She now assembles, maintains and repairs solar home systems for other villagers, earning an average BDT 10,500 (US$150) per month. This extra income has made her the main family breadwinner and means she can save money to give her only son a proper education.

Ms Nilufa’s new career and status came through the work done by the ILO’s Green Jobs in Asia Project. In Bangladesh, the green job creation model is building on a successful public-private partnership (facilitated by the ILO) with the Bureau for Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) and technology providers, including the Grameen Shakti, a non-profit organization that provides rural people with solar panels.

Her work is one practical application of the greener and fairer development model that underpins the shift of the broader development agenda - and accounts for the increasing interest in green jobs - in response to an era of climate change, scarce resources and environmental degradation.

Measures to respond to climate change will require the active engagement of tens of millions of employers and workers in both developed and developing countries.

Green jobs can be defined as jobs in economic sectors that reduce negative environmental impacts to sustainable levels. Green jobs are also ‘decent’ jobs that help reduce consumption of energy and raw materials, de-carbonize the economy, protect and restore ecosystem services, flood prevention and biodiversity, and minimize the production of waste and pollution.

The ILO recognizes that these changes may also have social impacts. Therefore it is important to promote coherent policies that support both sustainable growth and green jobs opportunities by improving working conditions and promoting sustainable enterprises. In Asia and the Pacific, the ILO currently has three major projects to promote green jobs: ILO Green Jobs Programme for Asia and the Pacific, Greener Business Asia Project and Green Jobs in Asia Project.

The ILO Green Jobs Programme for Asia and the Pacific has grown substantially since its inception in 2009 and now operates in ten countries in the region. The main objectives are to enhance constituents’ capacity to engage in dialogue on green jobs, contribute to an inclusive growth model that is job-centred and promotes environmentally sustainable decent work, and promote green jobs opportunities.

In 2010 the ILO initiated the Greener Business Asia Project, funded by the ILO/Japan Multi-Bilateral Programme. The project promotes social dialogue and specific models of worker-employer cooperation in support of greener workplaces and sustainable enterprises. This project assists workers in the hotel sector in Thailand and the auto-part industry in the Philippines by developing green improvement plans and implementation teams through a combination of top-to-bottom and bottom-up approaches. It provides practical tools and knowledge resources to improve environmental sustainability, linking environmentally-friendly work practices to improvements in productivity and competitiveness, so supporting decent work.

The Green Jobs in Asia Project (which helped Ms Nilufa) began in August 2010 and aims to improve ILO constituents’ ability to promote gender sensitive green jobs opportunities and a just transition for workers and employers. As well as Bangladesh, the project works in Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines and Sri Lanka. Country-level green jobs mapping studies on the links between the environment, the economy and employment are currently underway. These will generate data on the employment effects of green policies in various economic sectors and identify potential entry points for supporting more green jobs and decent work in waste management, sustainable tourism, renewable energy and social housing.

In India, the ILO is also working with the Ministry of Rural Development, UNDP and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) on an ‘Innovative Model for Inclusive Growth and Green Economy’, implemented by the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Rural Guarantee Act (MGNREGA). Under this model green jobs are created for people in rural areas by enhancing productive assets that contribute to ecological regeneration and climate adaptation. More than 80 per cent of the rural works programmes under NREGA are related to improvements in environmental quality, including water conservation, drought proofing (i.e. plantation and afforestation), flood protection, land development, minor irrigation, horticulture, land development and rural connectivity. A number of studies have indicated that NREGA has a positive effect on employment, wage earnings and productivity, as well as stemming distress-related migration and promoting gender equity. The government intends to develop NREGA as a strategic policy tool for sustainable development in rural areas, and the ILO will provide support.

Tags: working conditions, ILO partnerships

Regions and countries covered: Asia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Philippines, Viet Nam

Unit responsible: ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

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