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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The Problematic Definition of 'Green Jobs'

Source: earthtechling.com
Last week, the Permanent Representation of Austria to the EU hosted an event ‘Green Jobs: Growth Engine for the European Union or more Hype than Substance?’, where much of the discussion focused on how difficult it is to establish what a green job is – and isn’t. 

It seems that organisations assess green jobs differently.  For example, the ILO, UNEP and CEDEFOP definitions differ from both the EUROSTAT and OECD ones respectively.  Using EUROSTAT criteria, the Vienna Chamber of Labour recently published a study on green jobs in Austria.  Representing the Chamber, Sven Hergovich opened the event by listing some of the problems encountered due to limitations in the EUROSTAT definition. 

Only full-time jobs were included in the Austrian analysis, when many green jobs are temporary.  Furthermore, what is and isn’t categorised as a green job is not always logical.  For example, public transport jobs are not categorised as green jobs, yet waste jobs are – despite the paradoxical fact that more waste equals more workers.  Hergovich also added that the public ‘image’ of green jobs (i.e. technical workers putting up solar panels or wind farms) deviates from the green jobs reality.  The proportion of green jobs in agriculture, building, waste and trade in Austria is higher than in energy supply, which makes up only 6% of total Austrian green jobs. 

Nevertheless, promising facts emerged at the event, namely that the proportion of green jobs is rising in Europe and they seem to be recession-proof.  The European Commission’s Loris di Pietrantonio, from DG Employment, added that problems of green job governance could be overcome by better planning, by harnessing local talent and making sure different levels of government talk to each other.  Guido Lena, from the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (UEAPME), added that all jobs are useful to each other and wondered whether is it worth pitting ‘green’ versus ‘brown’ jobs against each other – or whether it is better to focus on greening the labour market as a whole. 

The green job definition issue will be an interesting one to keep an eye on, especially as governments continue to make policy decisions based on potentially incomplete statistics.  Here’s hoping that the definition becomes more concrete and we continue to see more jobs of a greener nature overall.

Blog by Bárbara Mendes-Jorge

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