Where are the Green Jobs?

By Bhavani Prakash

Isn’t it interesting that the biggest employers in the world are the military in the US and China, a hypermarket and a fast food joint selling cheap food!

The thrust of this article is to find out where the ‘clean’ jobs are. A green job, according to the United Nations Environment Programme, is work in agricultural, manufacturing, research and development, administrative, and service activities that contribute to preserving environmental quality, including jobs that help in protecting ecosystems and biodiversity.

A transition towards ‘green jobs’ would be one to welcome, as a solution to climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and a host of environmental problems. Numbers for green jobs are scattered everywhere, so we’ve tried to pull a few key ones here from various sources.

United States

Fast Company.com says

“From 1998 through 2007, the number of green U.S. jobs shot up 9.1%, while the rest of the workforce saw an increase of 3.7%. President Obama is certainly doing his part to make sure such progress continues apace: His stimulus bill dedicated $30 billion to exploring and expanding clean-energy technologies, and in January a $2.3 billion in tax credits went to companies developing new energy ideas and solutions.”

A detailed report by Brookings Institution (July 2011) says:

“In 2010, 2.7 million jobs in the United States directly contributed to the production of goods and services that had an environmental benefit. The jobs were spread over 57,501 different establishments in 41,185 companies and existed in almost every industry.

There is also one more attractive feature of the clean economy opportunity structure: The clean economy not only pays well, but pays well even for those without post-secondary degrees. Almost half of all jobs in the clean economy are held by workers with a high school diploma or less, compared to only 37.2 percent of U.S. jobs.”

The 2.7 million jobs in the clean economy, more than the number who work in the fossil fuel industry and twice as many who work in biotech as shown in this neat diagram by Think Progress.org

Source: Think Progress.org


Think Progress.org also quotes an analysis from the Center for American Progress which found that “clean-energy investments create about 16.7 jobs for every $1 million in spending. Spending on fossil fuels, by contrast, generates 5.3 jobs per $1 million in spending.”



According to Pew Center’s The Clean Energy Economy Report : Our data show that 65 percent of today’s clean energy economy jobs are in the category of Conservation and Pollution Mitigation—a sector that reflects the growing recognition among the public, policy makers and business leaders of the need to recycle waste, conserve water and mitigate emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. But three other categories—Clean Energy, Energy Efficiency and Environmentally Friendly Production—are growing at a far faster clip. And about 80 percent of venture capital investments in 2008 were in the sectors of Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency: businesses and jobs working to develop clean, renewable energy. The Clean Energy Economy sources such as wind and solar and products and services that reduce our overall energy consumption—all of which will help meet the demands of a carbon-constrained economy.

How about Asia?

Asia Business Council 2009 report entitled, “Addressing Asia’s New Green Jobs Challenge” has the following to say:

“The projected number of green jobs over the next two decades could reach 100 million worldwide.

This represents about 2% of the future global workforce of over 5 billion by 2030. Some of these green jobs will be newly created jobs, while others will be substitutes for existing jobs. If a similar percentage of the 2.5 billion working age people in Asia in 2025 work in green jobs,Asia would be home to 50 million green jobs. In addition, jobs can be created in existing industries that are not usually labeled as green industries. For instance, the expansion of mass transit can reduce carbon by reducing the need for cars. Various types of manufacturing industries can change their production processes or come up with new green products. Factoring in expanded production capacity, growing supply chains, and new servicing needs, the employment picture looks even more promising.”



WorldWatch Institute estimates that 4.5 million green jobs will be created in 2020 alone, in the energy, transportation and forestry sectors – but one of the report’s authors has warned that the country lacks many of the “basic and crucial” statistics to track its green economy, making estimates difficult.

WorldWatch Institute’s report: Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials  summarises the key findings thus:

  • China’s solar PV industry is projected to create an average of 6,680 direct jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
  • China’s wind power industry, including both power generation and manufacturing, is expected to generate approximately 34,000 green jobs annually between 2011 and 2020. The industry has provided an average of 40,000 direct green jobs each year between 2006 and 2010.
  • China is expected to add as many as 220 million new vehicles between now and 2020, with 16.7 million of those being either hybrid or electric vehicles produced by China.
  • High-speed rail in China could create an average 230,000 jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
  • Beijing’s urban rail system alone could create 437,000 jobs each year by 2020.
  • China’s forestation sector employed as many as 1.8 million full-time workers in 2010 alone. Between 2011 and 2020, forestation activities could offer as many as 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs annually.



According to the Economic Times, “India is likely to see 1 million new green jobs in the next two years. Increasing environmental awareness, growth of global carbon markets and the rise of green buildings and the like will eventually mean employment opportunities for lawyers, policy writers, carbon finance consultants, business risk analysts, architects and engineers adept in green building norms.


As reported by EcoSeed.org:

“The Singapore Economic Development Board (E.D.B.) will spend about 680 million Singapore dollars ($483.3 million) to build a clean technology ecosystem over the next five years as part of the country’s plan to become a global research and development hub.

The Singapore Economic Development Board (E.D.B.) will spend about 680 million Singapore dollars ($483.3 million) to build a clean technology ecosystem over the next five years as part of the country’s plan to become a global research and development hub.

The E.D.B. initiative is part of the government’s plan announced in September 2009 to invest 1 billion Singapore dollars to build a greener and more energy efficient country by 2015.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee for Sustainable Development set aggressive targets for the country, such as raising the energy efficiency goal by 35 percent and the recycling rate to 70 percent by 2030.

The committee also earmarked about 700 million Singapore dollars to develop the rest of the clean technology sector and 3.4 billion Singapore dollars to boost the country’s economic output along with the creation of 18,000 green jobs by 2015.”

CleanBiz.Asia noted:

“Asia’s cleantech industry is expanding and accounts for around 55 percent of the global industry, the United States holds approximately 40 percent market share, according to Mangels (Robert Walters).

Due to Singapore’s size, it makes it hard to set up large cleantech infrastructures in a cost-effective manner, Mangels added. Asia is progressing in becoming green tech, with China being the second leading wind-powered nation in the world. China is also the world’s largest green tech producer in terms of revenue, growing 77 percent over the last year to earn USD64billion, according to a ZDNet Asia report.

Despite the size of Singapore not lending itself well to large wind or solar farms, other green initiatives such as eco friendly products or electric and hybrid cars will potentially lead to more green related jobs in Singapore.”



According to (ABS-CBN News) Philippines’ investment in renewable energy could spawn 50,000 new green jobs by 2020.


It’s interesting to note that millions of people are already employed in “green jobs” if you count agro-forestry. Tens of millions depend directly on forests for their living. According to the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific:

“For 60 million indigenous and tribal peoples, forests are not only the economic basis of their survival but also the very foundation of their cultural and spiritual identity. Some 14 million are employed in the formal forestry sector. And the survival of a much larger number depends on informal and often subsistence use of forests.”



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