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Green economy

Ryder: World of work critical to greening the economy

ILO Director-General calls on EU environment and labour ministers to align policies for sustainable development.

Press release | 17 July 2014
MILAN – "The transition to a green economy is only possible with the active engagement of the world of work," said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder at the first-ever joint meeting of EU ministers of the environment and labour.

Environmental sustainability is a must, including from a labour market perspective."
Guy Ryder
“The world does not have to choose between job creation and preserving the environment,” said Ryder. “Environmental sustainability is a must, including from a labour market perspective.”

More green jobs will also lead to a more sustainable footprint in Europe. Currently, per capita greenhouse gas emissions are at least three times the admissible level, if the world is to not exceed global warming of 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Persistent joblessness

Added to the worrying environmental outlook is the on-going problem of unemployment in Europe.

The economic crisis which began in 2008 caused the loss of nearly 10 million jobs in Europe. The ILO forecasts there will still be 25 million people out of work in 2019.

The current situation is even worse for young job seekers. In many EU countries, the unemployment rate has reached 20 to 30 per cent for those aged 16 to 25.

"The poor EU employment forecast is linked to all-time low levels of investment. However, a more deliberate shift to a greener economy could change this dire outlook for jobs and climate change," said Ryder.

Studies estimate, for example, that for every percentage point of increased efficiency, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs are gained.

With the right policies, an ambitious shift to a greener economy could trigger substantial investment, reduce emissions and generate millions of jobs more than ‘business as usual’.

According to the ILO, the world market for environmental technologies, led by the field of energy and energy efficiency, would be worth a total of EUR 4.4 billion by 2025.

Getting skilled for a green economy

Ryder said Europe has historically focussed on improving labour productivity while neglecting energy and resource productivity. Over the past 50 years, labour productivity has increased nearly four-fold while energy productivity grew by less than 25 per cent.

Referring to the European Commission’s Green Action Plan for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), he said green tech is predominantly in the hands of SMEs.

He added that both SMEs and larger firms grapple with the problem of finding workers with the right skills for the green economy. This was highlighted in the first ILO green jobs report in 2008 and reconfirmed in the global study on skills for green jobs the ILO undertook with the European Commission in 2011.

The Build Up Skills initiative supported by the European Union estimates that up to 4.4 million workers will require up-skilling on energy efficiency or renewable energy sources by 2020.

ILO priorities

Globally, the ILO places a high priority on the twin challenges of preserving the environment and creating enough decent jobs and social inclusion.

In 2013, the International Labour Conference adopted a set of conclusions on sustainable development, decent work and green jobs. It contains a policy framework for a just transition to a greener economy. Ryder urged the ministers to make use of this framework for national and regional policy making.

He added that the ILO was eager to work with EU member states, social partners and the Commission in the drive to a greener economy and creating decent work for women and men: “The actors in the world of work, including governments, employers and workers, must be consulted on policy-making and on greening and climate resilience in businesses and workplaces.”

Further information

Green Employment Initiative: Tapping into the job creation potential of the green economy
The EU green employment initiative suggests further actions as part of an integrated approach to sustainable growth and jobs. This communication, proposed to the EU Parliament for endorsement, puts forward the strategic framework conditions that enhance labour market and skills policies to support employment creation in the green economy. Much of the proposals are highly relevant for ILO constituents and the supportive role of the Office.