Dr Lukas Kleine-Rueschkamp
Economist / Coordinator – Local Labour Market Analysis
OECD Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs, Regions and Cities
Tackling the climate crisis and environmental degradation is the most formidable task the world faces. Yet, a lack of workers with relevant skills could hold back the green transition.
While the green transition is a global megatrend, its impacts on workers will be felt locally. Regions relying on high-emission sectors face greater job risks as activity is phased out, while new opportunities from ‘green job creation’ benefit other areas.
Green talent in short supply
Labour markets have not become much greener over the past decade even though the green transition has taken centre stage in public discourse. New OECD analysis shows that only around 17% of workers in the OECD have jobs with a significant share of green tasks that contribute to environmental objectives, up from 16% in 2011. A lack of workers with ‘green skills’ is a major bottleneck, holding back efforts to accelerate the green transition.
However, progress on green jobs and skills is uneven. The greening of the labour market ranges from 5% to over 30% across regions, with green-task jobs often concentrated in successful capital regions.
The green transition may exacerbate inequality
The green transition may widen gender and socioeconomic inequality. So far, women account for less than 30% of green-task jobs. The higher average pay of green jobs is benefitting mainly workers that are, on average, better educated and highly skilled. We must make better use of the skills that underrepresented groups can bring to the table.
So far, women account for less than 30% of green-task jobs.
Learning from past transitions
A look at the past can help set the future. Evidence from previous transitions highlights the importance of a clear long-term vision (take for instance the Ruhr region’s strategic reorientation from heavy industry to green innovation), early anticipatory policies and strong collaboration between national and local governments, employers and social partners in successfully managing labour market transformations.
When it comes to the green transition, there is one stark difference. It is mainly policy rather than market-driven. This has two implications: it results in greater scope but also greater responsibility for policy intervention.
Actions for a green future
What can governments do? They must ramp up and rethink local skills systems that were already not training enough people. They must align environmental with skills and employment policies, which, so far, exist in isolation. Forward-looking skills strategies also require better labour market intelligence that helps identify skills gaps and labour shortages early on. Finally, governments must offer more targeted retraining and upskilling support for vulnerable groups to promote a just green transition in all places.