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Get ready to develop a green workforce

Get ready to develop a green workforce

09 May 2024

AS the world shifts towards net zero and green economy, it will lead to small and big transitions affecting daily lives, workplace conditions and environment, employees’ skill set and jobs, business models and the way of doing business.

The scale of green transition is likely to be disruptive to the labour market. The greening of the economy, greening production of goods and services as well as green investment will inevitably bring about greening existing jobs and replacement as well destruction of some jobs while creating new green skills jobs.

What is green job? There is a lack of universally accepted definition or accepted way of categorising green jobs and green skills. This can lead to confusion and potential greenwashing.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines green jobs as jobs that are good for people, good for the environment and good for the economy. Green jobs are decent and socially responsible as well as for the preservation and restoration of the environment.

As the economy and businesses gear up for green transformation and the challenges of climate change and sustainable technological change, the creation of green jobs and demand for green skills is on the rise.

The green economy transition is driving green jobs growth across traditional sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, construction and finance as well as new emerging green sectors such as electric vehicles (EVs), renewable energy (RE), circular economy, environmental services, sustainable city development, erosion control and flood mitigation management.

Additionally, green transition in particularly hard-to-abate sectors, which include heavy-duty trucking, shipping, aviation, iron and steel, and chemicals and petrochemicals, also create green transition jobs that need reskilling and upskilling of existing job profiles.

The ILO estimated that about 100 million new green jobs can potentially be created by 2030, leading to a net job creation of 25 million jobs. A total of 18 million jobs can be created by achieving sustainability in the energy sector and six million jobs can be created by embracing the circular economy.

The Global Green Skills Report 2023 indicated the increase in demand for green skills is outpacing the increase in supply, raising the prospect of an imminent green skill shortage.

Between 2022 and 2023, the share of green talent in the workforce rose by a median of 12.3% across the 48 countries examined, while the share of job postings requiring at least one green skill grew nearly twice as quickly by a median of 22.4%.

Between 2018 and 2023, the share of green talent grew by 5.4% per year while the share of jobs requiring at least one green skill grew by 9.2%.

Addressing this growing demand of green skills need requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing education and training, industry collaboration, and policy support to businesses’ skills needs identification and anticipation and equip workforce with the skillset, competencies and knowledge needed to build a sustainable green future.

Stakeholders in public and private sectors have to develop regulations, programmes and policies that foster green skills development and create pathways for workers to transition into green jobs.

For Malaysia, it is important for the policymakers and businesses to meticulously make policy assessment and readiness for developing a green workforce capable of helping the economy and businesses transition towards sustainable growth.

Malaysia has a well-developed green economy agenda dating back to the National Policy on Climate Change (2010) and National Policy on the Environment (2020), focusing on stewardship of the environment; effective resource management; enhanced environmental conservation; continuous improvement in the quality of the environment; sustainable use of natural resources; the role of the private sector; commitment and accountability; and active participation in the international community.

The green economy agenda was further reinforced in the 11th Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) and the 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025), outlining the strategic thrust of pursuing green growth for sustainability and resilience.

The focus areas include strengthening the enabling environment for green growth, the adoption of sustainable production and consumption concepts, the conservation of natural resources for present and future generations, and the strengthening of resilience against climate change and natural disasters.

The National Plan was reinforced by the National Green Technology Policy, the Environmental Quality Act (1974), the Green Government Procurement Guidelines (2018), New Industrial Master Plan 2030 and the National Energy Transition Roadmap to set overall directions, initiatives and enablers of supporting all stakeholders in implementing environmental sustainability.

Malaysia’s definition of green jobs is guided by the ILO definition, whereby green jobs are decent jobs that contribute to preservation or restoration of the environment.

The government has initiated occupational analysis in some of these new and emerging industries in green technology. The Occupational Structure of the Green Technology Industry project (2011) identified the main sectors likely to utilise occupations in green technologies.

The first iteration structure identifies six key sectors which include energy, manufacturing, transportation, buildings, waste and water, and has found 71 job titles that could be classified in green technology.

The second iteration of the Green Technology Occupational Framework only focused on the energy sector (RE and energy efficiency), and 112 occupations were identified.

The Green Jobs Portal, a proactive measure taken by the Environment and Water Ministry, has set a target of providing more than 200,000 green jobs by 2030. Data from MYFutureJobs indicated that there were 30,000 green jobs available in 2023,

How can policymakers and businesses increase the number of green jobs? The implementation of New Industrial Master Plan 2030 and National Energy Transition Roadmap to accelerate the economy’s and industries’ green transformation will attract potential investment in new green areas of up to RM1.3 trillion and is expected to generate 310,000 jobs by 2050.

The government can use a wide range of policy interventions, regulations and environmental standards, green taxes as well as financing measures to support and incentivise private sector and businesses to undertake green transformation.

These include increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.

Building climate-resilient infrastructure, smart city and public housing development, expanding green public transportation, RE, smart electricity grids, and investment in flood mitigation, climate change mitigation and adaption project, as well as agriculture for creating sustainable food security – all these public investments will create green job opportunities.

Additionally, the government can collaborate with the financial institutions to provide loans at reasonable interest rates and grants for investing in green projects such as sustainable agriculture, renewable or low-carbon emission technology, smart government and private buildings, private housing, public walkways and cycleways and EV infrastructure.

The government can send decisive policy signals to the private sector that it is committed to the development of green economic prosperity.

For example, by offering tax incentives, subsidies and grant funding to support the collaboration between the industry, research institutes, academic institutions and private research and development firms to boost innovation and invest in transformative technologies such as RE, carbon capture, waste management and energy efficiency.

Green subsidies and tax rebates can be provided to boost demand for green products and services like EV, solar panels, RE and energy-savings equipment and appliances. This would increase the demand for green skills and encourage suppliers to reskill.

Businesses must demonstrate a commitment to equipping the workforce with green skills for talent motivation and retention while illustrating good career prospects in the green pathway.

Furthermore, businesses prioritising sustainability can send a strong message to their employees about their ESG values.

Enhancing skills is key to the green transition and harnessing the potential of artificial intelligence. Green skills are the knowledge, abilities, values and attitudes needed to develop a pool of workforce capable of helping businesses’ green transition.

Active labour market policy plays an important role to train and develop green skills. Both public and private investments in skills and training development are critical to building a resilient green and digital transition.

The greening of skills must take place through active labour market education and training. Policymakers and businesses must provide the necessary green training and career pathways, area-specific reskilling, design tailored and effective programmes to the workforce.

Lee Heng Guie is Socio-Economic Research Centre executive director. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

Source: The Star