How Green Economies Impact Jobs

Published on May 24, 2023

Updated on Aug 25, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

The shift towards a greener economy is apparent nearly everywhere, and its impacts on the labour market are nothing short of astounding. Not only does a more eco-friendly economy increase the number of job opportunities available in the market, it also creates jobs that are highly skilled and highly paid, boosting prosperity globally. 

Lightcast data show that demand for green jobs is up by more than 50% since 2019 in the US, and Great Britain isn’t far behind. This spike can be seen globally, and it reflects the growing concern for the environment in recent years.

The green light for a greener economy 

National governments are rolling up their sleeves and putting strategies in place to mitigate the effects of climate change. The EU is attempting to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, as part of the European Green Deal. The UK announced similar plans in 2021, when the UK government published its “Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener” report, setting all the policies and strategies required to achieve net zero by 2050. 

Most recently, in October 2022, Australia and Singapore joined forces to sign the Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement (GEA), defining the key activities to reduce emissions and drive growth in the sustainability space. Governments across the globe are keen on establishing a green economy, but without the data, some of these concepts are simply too vague to be put into action.  

Lightcast recently hosted a webinar on “Understanding the Green Economy” in partnership with Data City and WPI Economics. The webinar takes you through the impacts of the green economy on the labour market and how to understand green economy trends to plan your talent strategies.  

The growth of green jobs explained 

We have touched on the growth of green jobs in our Global Talent Playbook report, and defined it as one of the key trends to be aware of in 2023 and beyond. As the graph below shows, the tendency has been upward for all countries studied. Germany is leading the way with the highest percentage of green job postings, followed by Canada and the US. While countries like Italy and Spain are clearly lagging behind, we can see that there was still considerable growth in the percentage of green job postings in these countries between 2019 and 2022. 

Green job growth by country

Defining “Green”

So much has been said about the green economy, yet there is no official definition of “green.” To understand the specifics of a green labour market, it’s crucial to have a broad idea of what the term “green” encompasses and what it doesn’t. 

Our job postings data enables you to understand how employers describe jobs, the green skills associated with those jobs, and help you track the demand for such skills over time. Lightcast partnered with WPI Economics and Data City to give you a full picture of what the green economy looks like now, and help you predict how it may look in the future. See how you can build your green economy strategy here

If you want an even more comprehensive definition of “green”, Lightcast developed “Green Jobs Now” in collaboration with the US-based nonprofit WorkingNation, in which we identified four different types of green jobs. These are: 

  • Core Green Jobs - jobs that play a direct role in conserving the environment, which include Solar Engineers, Hydroelectric Engineers, and Energy Efficiency Specialists.

  • Green Enabled Jobs - jobs that are not directly connected to the green economy, but require increasingly more green skills. For example, HVAC installers adopting an energy-efficient product.

  • Green Enabling Jobs - jobs that traditionally don’t require green-related skills, but are housed at firms linked to the green economy, such as the marketing manager at a solar panel company.

  • Potential Green Jobs - jobs that currently have little relation to the green economy but may evolve to require green skills in the future, such as maintenance techs and engineers. 

How The Green Economy is Impacting Engineering in the UK

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What a greener economy means for workers

Building a more sustainable ecosystem to live in, improving citizen’s quality of life, health and wellbeing, and boosting innovation are just some of the benefits of becoming greener. But what does this mean for workers? With the demand for renewable energy sources, efficient heating systems and electric vehicles rising steadily, more workers will be needed to fill in green skills gaps. 

For example, in the US, demand for Solar Sales Representatives increased by 70% between 2019 and 2020. This job doesn’t require a Bachelor’s degree, and pays competitively compared to similar, non-green jobs. 

Two green job titles make the list of the top 10 emerging jobs: Sustainability Consultant and Energy and Sustainability Manager. While this is US data, similar trends are noticeable across European countries too. However, there is a long way to go before these jobs have a widespread positive impact on the market. 

A study by the London School of Economics (LSE) and Lightcast found that in the UK, green jobs are referred to as "low-carbon jobs” and they tend to demand more skills than their high-carbon counterparts, even though wages for both jobs also tend to be comparable. American green jobs face similar obstacles: they tend to be more demanding in terms of managerial, technical, and social skills, and therefore less accessible to potential workers. 

Unpacking green economy trends 

Green jobs could have long-lasting and profound effects on the labour market, but these effects cannot come to fruition without an understanding of what green skills are, how workers can be upskilled to assume green careers, and what resources can be used to initiate this upskilling. 

Lightcast data can help you unpack green economy trends globally, nationally and regionally, enabling you to understand, among others, the types of green skills employers are looking for, and how candidates match those. Get in touch with our team, and we can help you solve your green labour market challenges. 

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