Argentina advances towards a national sustainable construction plan for a Just Transition

Within the framework of the ILO PAGE Project, a Labour Adaptation Plan for the Construction Sector in Argentina has been developed together with the social partners, aimed at identifying concrete strategies for advancing towards an inclusive sustainability in this sector.

News | 02 September 2022
On 8 July 2022, with the facilitation of ILO and UN Partnership Action on Green Economy (PAGE), government officials and representatives of employers' and workers' organizations in Argentina organized a workshop to develop an action agenda for a just transition of the economy and the promotion of green jobs in one of the most dynamic sectors of the country.

The transition to a greener economy will have an impact on employment. According to ILO data, by 2030, structural changes in consumption and production patterns, aimed at decarbonization, could create more than 15 million jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean.

By its very nature, the construction industry requires large amounts of natural resources which has generated negative effects on environment. The depletion of natural resources, loss of biological diversity, poor air quality, and global warming are just some of the direct consequences of years of little or no attention to the environmental externalities of the sector.

A new paradigm of sustainable construction is critically called for. “It is estimated that the area covered by buildings will double, adding more of 230 billion square meters to the planet, this is equivalent to building the surface of Japan every year from now until 2060. To continue using traditional construction methods means that the environmental impact will be irreparable, which makes it increasingly imperative to adopt sustainable construction practices in the industry”, says Mr. Miguel Macías from BLINDSPOT consultancy who was engaged for developing the Labour Adaptation Plan.

In Latin America, the growth of sustainable construction is often accompanied by public and regulatory strategies to promote and facilitate sustainable public buildings, both for environmental benefits and for the sector's impact on job creation, which is often higher than that of conventional construction.

Firstly, sustainable design and construction processes often include activities that are not traditionally part of the conventional construction process, such as the installation of eco-technologies, ecological landscaping, waste separation and management. Secondly, construction comes with a production chain that includes local materials, transporting, collecting, treating and recycling construction waste. All these activities are labour intensive.

Social partners, trade unions, chambers of commerce as well as Ministries of Labour, Environment and Production engaged in the assessment and development of the Labour Adaptation Plan for sustainability in the construction sector, which is based on the methodology of Market Based System Approach. Relevant findings such as skills-mismatch-analysis and recommendations for the improvement of gender equality through greening of jobs in the sector were presented and discussed in a tripartite workshop.

From left to right: Mr. Gustavo Gandara, representative of the Construction Union UOCRA; Ms. Laila Brandy, Chied of Cabinet of the MoL; Mr. Joaquin Etorena Hormaeche, National Coordinator for PAGE Argentina/ILO; Mr. Hugo Molina, representative of the Chamber of Construction
The key findings of the Labour Adaptation Plan were presented by Ms. Laila Brandy, chief of Cabinet of the Employment Secretariat of the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security (MTEySS); Mr. Gustavo Gándara, executive director of the Construction Workers' Union Foundation (UOCRA); and Mr. Hugo Molina, president of the SME Training and Development Commission of the Argentine Chamber of Construction (CAMARCO); Mr. Joaquín Etorena, coordinator of PAGE led by the ILO in Argentina.

“The ministry focuses on employment formalization and improving the quality of jobs,” said Ms. Brandy, adding: “to do this, the statistics and criteria that support a just transition are crucial to know where the challenges lie for active policies, and so is the social dialogue on climate change to think about a policy that integrates all aspects and allows moving towards specific approaches”.

According to Mr. Etorena, the workshop is the “result of work that sets ambition and strategic lines of action for a just transition and the promotion of green jobs in the country's most productive and dynamic sectors, as well as to promote the potential for the recovery of youth employment.”

Mr. Gándara mentioned that today they are registering full employment of qualified workers, but the insertion rate of workers with the necessary qualifications is low. For this reason, the UOCRA leader warned that "we have to correct basic problems such as education and the definition of job profiles in accordance with the transitions that we must face." Moreover, he emphasized the importance of working with cooperatives and other social economy actors in accessing and realizing labour rights. "Equal work, equal rights" he stressed.

Ms. Martha Pujadas, the director of Legal Affairs of UOCRA and focal point to international issues from the Trade Unions Central CGT
The director of Legal Affairs of UOCRA, Ms. Marta Pujadas, highlighted the need to continue promoting the just transition and sustainable development agenda in Argentina. “We know that this challenge requires a paradigm shift in our productive sectors, accompanied by public policies for transformation,” said Pujadas, “this adaptation plan carried out by PAGE is important due to the centrality of an engine sector of the productive economy, which creates decent jobs for male and female workers”.

Mr Molina applauded the creation of a space for collective discussion and the fact that "these issues that are so important for the future of construction sector are put on the agenda", and stressed that the issue of the sector's transition towards sustainability implies challenges not only around employment policies but also in relation to norms and standards.

Six guidelines were then discussed in working groups within the dynamics of the workshop:
  • Development of a national sustainable construction policy
  • Awareness raising strategy for promoting benefits of sustainable buildings
  • A comprehensive training pathway
  • Support for companies in the sector
  • Development of an ecosystem of suppliers of sustainable construction materials
  • Development of an efficient waste recovery chain
The participants in the workshop, including representatives from other Ministries, sectoral unions and enterprises, appreciated the tripartite nature of the initiative and the articulation to materialize analyses and statistics into concrete policy opportunities. The social partners agreed that construction has enormous potential in the transition towards sustainability. To promote green employment it is necessary to promote simultaneously changes in several areas, such as the use of water, waste treatment, coordination with SMEs and other actors in the value chain. In this challenge, collective bargaining is key to driving these changes sectorally.