ASEAN has been actively encouraging green jobs in renewable energy, energy efficiency, green infrastructure, and urban planning, as well as implementing policies to support sustainable production and consumption systems like the circular economy. These efforts have been indicated in the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint and the ASEAN Declaration on Promoting Green Jobs for Equity and Inclusive Growth.
Despite this, the rise of green jobs and the policy ecology that supports future growth are still in their early stages of development. ASEAN Member States (AMS) have asked for specific guidance to analyse the impact of green jobs and greening on their workforces, as well as the labour market and skills and training development implications of green jobs, and the most appropriate ways to respond.
Many AMS have already made progress in identifying and quantifying green jobs in their economies, as well as improving policymakers’ skills and competencies. Each AMS is doing so at a different speed and with various goals in mind. As a result, there are gaps in knowledge and data sources including recognising the supply and demand drivers for green jobs at the country and sectoral levels, the resulting implications on labour standards and occupational health and safety, and the ramifications on education structures.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) and ASEAN, under directions from Malaysia, has collaborated on a paper titled “Regional Study on Green Jobs Policy Preparation in ASEAN” to examine policy readiness for fostering green jobs across the ASEAN region. This research adds to this knowledge exchange by developing a policy framework and assessing the level of policy preparation required using data from each of the AMS.
What are green jobs ?
The ILO defines green jobs as jobs that are good for people, good for the environment and good for the economy. They are both a mechanism to achieve sustainable development, as well as an outcome. They provide the double dividend of employment and reduced negative environmental impacts. Green jobs are decent jobs in economic sectors and activities that contribute to the preservation and restoration of the environment in either traditional sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing, as well as new, emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Green jobs must be quality, decent jobs and in line with the four strategic objectives at the heart of the ILO decent work agenda, which seek to:
set and promote standards and fundamental principles and rights at work create greater opportunities for women and men to obtain decent employment and income enhance the coverage and effectiveness of social protection for all strengthen tripartism (government, workers’ and employers’ organizations) and social dialogue
At the enterprise level, green jobs can produce a variety of goods and services that benefit the environment. Some of these activities are easy to identify such as green buildings, recycling services or clean transportation. However, these goods and services are not always based on green production processes and technologies. Green jobs can also be derived from contributing to more environmentally sustainable production processes, even when the final outputs of these activities are not environmental goods and services. Figure 1 provides an overview of the range of activities that can be considered green jobs.
There is no universal definition or accepted way of categorising and counting green jobs. Most definitions of green jobs consider greening on a spectrum with some jobs being classified as directly green, and others indirectly. In Malaysia (ILO and IGES, 2014) and the Philippines (ILO and IGES, 2014a) where green jobs studies have taken place, this spectrum approach to identifying and counting green jobs has been utilised. For most of the workforce, greening will change their work by only a small amount. For other occupations, greening will change them significantly and new occupations will be created and other occupations will diminish or be phased out. This is why Just Transition is also discussed with green jobs.
Labour force characteristics in ASEAN
In 2018, the labour force participation rate in ASEAN region was 70.3 per cent, although there are significant differences in the participation rate across the genders with the male participation rate 18 per centage points higher than the female participation rate. Furthermore, in many countries women who do participate in the labour force are more likely to be concentrated in industries and occupations with lower pay and limited opportunities for career advancement (Dasgupta and Verick, 2016). The unemployment rate for the region is 2.7 per cent (2018 figures) with youth unemployment much higher at 9.6 per cent (ILO, 2018).
The services sector provides a significant source of employment in all ASEAN countries, in some cases more than half of the jobs are in the sector. In Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, the services sector makes up more than 75 per cent of employment (see Figure 2). The services sector includes employment in wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, transport, storage, business services, community and health services and personal services.
Agriculture (which also includes forestry and fishing activities) also provides a significant source of employment, accounting for a third of employment in most AMS. In Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar, agriculture contributes more than 45 per cent of employment. Industrial activities, including manufacturing, construction, energy and public utilities make up the third category of employment in the region. Again, there is diversity in the proportion of employment that comes from the industrial sector, although for most AMS this equates to more than 20 per cent of total employment.
In terms of skill levels of employment, based on occupational classifications, about two thirds of employment are classified as medium-skilled professions (see Figure 3). These are professions where formal training and skill competencies are required (at least skill level 2 out of a possible 4). Occupations in this category include clerical, sales and service workers, skilled agricultural and trade workers, plant machinists and assemblers.
Estimates of vulnerable employment varies greatly across ASEAN. This is due to sectoral composition of employment as well as other labour force characteristics. Vulnerable employment is a term used to highlight employees who work in circumstances that are prone to informal work arrangements, less social security and are less able to participate in and benefit from social dialogue processes (ILO, 2018).
This vulnerability arises from self -employment – either through an own-account worker or work as a contributing family member. Self-employment has a high economic risk in that remuneration is directly dependent on the profits of goods and services produced. These workplaces and the workers within them have little authority in the economy, either as unrecognised business units, or as informal workers within these workplaces (such as family members). Across the ASEAN region, the ILO estimates more than 47 per cent of the employment in the region could be classified as ‘vulnerable’ – see Figure 4 (ILO, 2018a).
The Lao PDR is estimated to have the largest concentration of estimated vulnerable workers, at 83 per cent. This is likely linked to the country’s high reliance on agriculture. Other countries with high estimates of vulnerable employees include Myanmar, Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand, all of which have more than 50 per cent of workers that can be classified as vulnerable (Fig. 4). The proportion of vulnerable workers is estimated to be less than 10 per cent in Brunei Darussalam and Singapore, in part because these countries have less reliance on agricultural employment. There is also a gender dimension to vulnerable employment in that women are more likely to be overrepresented in vulnerable work, owing in part to disproportionate care duties as well as direct and indirect forms of discrimination (ILO, 2016). Although women are more likely to be in vulnerable work, the gap between women and men in vulnerable work in Asia narrowed in the period between 2010 and 2015, correspondingly there were more women in formal, wage employment (ILO, 2017). The impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will likely set these results into reverse, and progress on reducing vulnerable employment will need to be closely monitored in the coming years.
The original report can be accessed here.