01 Nov Green jobs grow as GFC recedes
With the GFC becoming a distant memory and the job market gradually improving, concerns about the environment will come more to the fore and there will be a renewed focus on “green jobs”, but what exactly are green jobs, and are they growing in number?
Green jobs fall under five categories; jobs producing energy from renewable resources such as wind and solar power; products and services that improve energy efficiency; jobs producing energy-efficient equipment, building and vehicles; jobs in pollution reduction, or its removal and recycling, and jobs in natural-resource conservation, environmental compliance, education and training.
So how many people are employed in green jobs and is this a growth segment? Rather surprisingly, given the focus on climate change and the environment at the moment, very little information is available in Australia. The issue of measurement of the green jobs market is important in the climate-change debate, as often industries or subsectors that any regulatory changes have a negative impact on can be reasonably easily measured, as they are often well covered in the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ detailed labour-force data, whereas the change in green jobs is not measured per se, so no one can easily see the economic benefits. So we have to look at the partial indicators in the jobs market.
The Clean Energy Council estimates that 21,000 people are employed in the renewable-energy sector in Australia, which has grown significantly over the last decade as consumers find the use of renewable energy more palatable and affordable. In fact, 14.8% of Australia’s energy consumption now is from renewable energy sources.
There are two areas of green employment that are specifically covered by the ABS, the number of environmental scientists and the number employed in waste management. Job numbers for environmental scientists are now 26,900 and have grown substantially over the last five years, up a massive 43 per cent compared to 7.5 per cent for the total workforce. This rate is just below that of the mining jobs powerhouse, which has had 53 per cent growth in jobs over the same period. Currently, 32,800 are employed in waste management and this growth, too, has outpaced the total labour market, rising by 27% since 2009.
The ABS has just released an experimental series on environmental services jobs in 2014 which covers organisations in green sectors closely. This series shows the environmental-services sector had expenditure of $31.9 billion in 2010/11. Using an economic model built by EMDA, this expenditure would support approximately 100,000 jobs in the green sector. This number is just over double the jobs in the coal mining industry, and equal to the number of jobs in the accommodation industry.
Consumer concern about the environment and the rising costs of non-renewable fuels is likely to drive more growth in green jobs in the future for Australia. In 2014 the Lowy Institute Poll found 45 per cent of Australians now see global warming as “a serious and pressing problem”, up 14 points since 2012. Given Australia is a high-level polluter per capita in global terms, this number is likely to continue to grow. Therefore, consumer demand for clean and green services will only increase, and this will translate into more jobs for more Australians.
Michael Emerson, is an Economist and Director of Economic and Market Development Advisors, EMDA. emda.com.au
Originally published Sydney Morning Herald 1 November 2014