World Employment and Social Outlook

A just transition to a green economy could create 14 million jobs in Asia and the Pacific

ILO flagship report estimates job losses and job creation as the world moves to a greener economy.

Press release | 14 May 2018
BANGKOK (ILO news) – Fourteen million new jobs would be created in Asia and the Pacific by 2030 if the right policies to promote a greener economy are put in place, finds the new ILO report World Employment and Social Outlook 2018: Greening with Jobs.

“The findings of our report underline that jobs rely heavily on a healthy environment and the services that it provides. 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,” ILO Deputy Director-General Deborah Greenfield says.

Key findings in Asia and the Pacific

  • The transition to a greener economy can create a net of 14 million jobs in Asia and the Pacific, with gains in fields of renewable energies, construction, manufacturing, and sustainable agriculture.
  • In Asia and the Pacific, economic growth remains coupled with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Environmental degradation is further exacerbated by the high volume of extraction; the region was responsible for 55 per cent of the 84 gigatons of materials extracted globally in 2013 (including freshwater and raw materials).
  • Estimates show that between 2008 and 2015, the region lost an annual average of 536 working-life years per 100,000 working age people due to human-induced or climate change related disasters.
  • Heat stress is another concern, as rising temperatures impact the health of workers and reduce worker performance. Southern Asia could face productivity losses equivalent to 4.8 per cent, corresponding to around 40 million full-time jobs as a result of rising temperatures. Agriculture workers will be the most affected.
According to the report, globally, action to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius will result in sufficient job creation to more than offset the expected job losses of 6 million in traditional energy sectors. The global net job creation as countries make the transition to green economies would amount to 24 million jobs: 14 million in Asia and the Pacific, 3 million in the Americas, and 2 million in Europe.

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 these regions on fossil fuel and mining, respectively.  

Global key findings

  • Most sectors of the economy will 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.
  • 2.5 million jobs will be created in renewables-based electricity, offsetting some 400,000 jobs lost in fossil fuel-based electricity generation.
  • 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”.
New jobs will be created with the adoption of 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 fertilization, pest control, pollination and protection against extreme weather conditions - sustain, among others, farming, fishing, forestry and tourism activities, which employ 1.2 billion workers worldwide, and 848 million in Asia and the Pacific.

But 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 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.

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

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 which 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. 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”, concludes Saget.

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