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The green economy: what’s in it for employment?

Cedefop's findings were presented at two Brussels events: a Cedefop workshop at the European Parliament and the Belgian Presidency's ministerial conference on green employment

The goal of green development affects all EU economic and social policies, including education and training. A workshop on green skills co-organised by Cedefop and the European Parliament and a conference of the Belgian Presidency on promoting green employment discussed in Brussels on 28 and 29 September how the transition to a low-carbon economy affects the demand and supply of skills.

The workshop: employment meets environment


MEP Chris Davies
(ALDE-UK),
Coordinator on the
Environment Committee

In its Europe 2020 strategy, the European Union sets sustainable growth and a competitive low-carbon economy as priorities for Europe. To achieve this goal, European citizens must have the right skills.

To explore what this means for training, skills development and employment policies, Cedefop co-organised a workshop, Learning to be green: future skills for green jobs, with two Members of the European Parliament: MEP Chris Davies (ALDE-UK), Coordinator on the Environment Committee, and Elisabeth Schroedter (DE-Greens), Vice-President of the Employment Committee. Schroedter was the author of the report on Developing the job potential of a new sustainable economy adopted by the European Parliament on 7 September 2010. The panel featured representatives of several European Commission Directorates-General, major EU social partner organisations, and industry.

The basis of the discussion was the findings of Cedefop’s recent publication, Skills for Green jobs: European Synthesis Report. The report includes in-depth reports on six EU Member States.

Cooperation at international and European level

What emerged most clearly from the workshop is the necessity of common action in both building the green economy and of generating the skills that will make it possible.


MEP Elisabeth Schroedter
(DE-Greens),
Vice-President of the
Employment Committee

This emphasis was demonstrated by the event itself: the workshop was not only hosted by MEPs from both the environment and employment Committees, it also encouraged an exchange between several Directorates-General in the European Commission: employment, education and climate change.

In addition, Cedefop’s green skills project itself is a product of wider collaboration: it complements a study of non-European countries which was undertaken in parallel by the International Labour Organization. Cedefop’s study covers Europe, while the ILO studied 15 countries outside Europe.

Two years ago Cedefop identified a gap: it found that there was not enough being done on anticipating the skills Europe needs in order to meet the demands of sustainable growth. In its work with the International Labour Organization, Cedefop project on green skills was able to show that the range of such skills is much wider than previously thought. At the workshop, Deputy Director Christian Lettmayr stressed the scale of the study. He concluded his address by pointing out that for “densely populated Europe, although heavily dependent on the import of oil and gas or the use of atomic energy, but overall arguably more advanced in the development of a green economy than the other large economies in the world, a comprehensive environmental policy with an integrated skill response strategy is also a chance to gain a competitive advantage and stimulate economic development in Europe.”


Christian Lettmayr
Cedefop Deputy Director

All the more reason to draw conclusions for common action. Despite differences in emphasis and priorities, no one cast doubt on the importance or the scale of the task. Jurgen Muller, Member of the Cabinet of Connie Hedegaard, Commissioner for Climate Change, said: “Looking ahead, we need to outline a pathway for the EU's transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050, to be produced in early 2011, in conjunction with the 2050 energy roadmap. The roadmap will strengthen the cooperation between Directorates-General – energy, transport, employment, education and training”.

A considerable investment

The findings of the Cedefop study show that many of the skills Europe needs for the green economy can already be found in existing occupations. Concretely, the labour market requires a balance between developing generic skills (such as communication and problem solving) and generic green skills (reducing waste, improving energy efficiency) and adding to job-related skills.

But this is not easy to achieve. Though upskilling is more important than developing entirely new skills, the scale of the task requires considerable funding. As an example, while it is not difficult for people working in the construction industry to acquire the new skills required, the sheer numbers of people needing such training represents a considerable investment. The study found that the integration of skills in environmental policies remains weak. But there are hopeful signs that his is changing: some countries are already on the way to developing such strategies.

In addition, there is widespread agreement that Europe needs to tackle its weakness in scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical (STEM) skills. The decline in engineering graduates and apprenticeships represents a major obstacle to greening the economy.

The ministerial conference: practical steps to green employment

Public Employment Services

The Presidency conference session dedicated to developing skills for green jobs, which was chaired by Deputy Director Christian Lettmayr, took up the question of how to plan for and finance the development of green skills. Presenting Cedefop’s findings, Project Manager Peter Szovics said that public employment services can play multiple roles. They can help to anticipate green skills by monitoring vacancies and conducting case studies; they can carefully match the present skill supply to the emerging demand for green skills; and they can particularly focus on channeling disadvantaged people in new opportunities in the green economy.

Indicators and funds

The indicators group of the Employment Committee has drawn up indicators tracking the greening of jobs, and including green skills. These will show to what extent the labour market is acquiring and demanding such jobs and skills. The evidence the indicators provide can show whether policies in this field are effective.

In the discussion, trade union representatives proposed the creation of a Green European social fund to ease the transition to the low-carbon economy. But though there was widespread agreement that such a fund would be useful, budgetary constraints suggest that a more efficient sue of present funds is a more realistic prospect. Accordingly, the Presidency has invited the European Commission to investigate whether the European funds – especially the European Social Fund and the Fund for Adaptation to Globalization - could take greater account of the transition to a green economy for the 2014-2020.

European action

Laszlo Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, and Joelle Milquet, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, launched a proposal for the first European plan to create jobs in green sectors, and for the greening of the economy and the labour market.

The aim is that in December the Council of Ministers for Employment will adopt policy decisions giving concrete form to plans for green jobs. The findings from Cedefop’s research, along with the work undertaken by, inter alia, the Employment Committee and the European Social and Economic Committee, can serve as a basis for such policy action.

News Details

01/10/2010
Cedefop