Published on 28 May 2018


A green economy could eliminate 120 million jobs in agriculture

Responsible agriculture could have many benefits for the environment, but it could also have serious consequences for employment, warned the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in a study published on 14 May. According to their estimates, 120 million jobs would be eliminated in agricultural sectors in Asia-Pacific and Africa. On the other hand, such a change would be a positive one for the energy sector.

100 million agricultural jobs will be cut in the Asia-Pacific region for green economy transition

The ILO revealed that a shift to more sustainable farming systems could destroy 120 million jobs by 2030, due to abandoning ploughing techniques in developing countries, in a report published on 14 May [KH1] (1). The UN agency is researching job creation and job loss in a scenario where global warming stays under 2°C, as outlined in the Paris Agreement.

At first glance, agriculture appears to be the most impacted sector, with the most affected regions being Asia-Pacific (-100 million jobs) and Africa (-20 million), where the percentage of agricultural workers is high. On the other hand, more organic farming jobs would be created on medium or large-sized farms. In Europe, the only region spared from job loss, agricultural employment would increase by 1.1% with a move towards organic farming.

The ILO has also calculated the effects of heat stress. By 2030, the total number of working hours would decrease by 2% globally due to illness. Between 2000 and 2015, natural disasters have already caused a 0.8% loss in working time.

24 million jobs in the green economy

There are other sectors affected by job losses: oil extraction and refining have each seen more than one million jobs disappear. Once again, Africa will be primarily affected as well as the Middle East, a region that will have to change its energy resources. However, the ILO’s message is positive because even if the fight against climate change may remove jobs in the energy sector, it will also create them.

According to the organisation's calculations, implementing a 2°C scenario will create 24 million jobs by 2030 thanks to the development of renewable energies, electric vehicles and the improvement of energy efficiency in infrastructure. This is enough to compensate for the 6 million job losses made in other sectors, particularly those that are carbon-intensive and resource-heavy.  Today, there are already 10 million renewable energy jobs (2).

France funds 10,000 green training schemes

An additional 6 million jobs could be created in the "circular economy," which integrates activities such as recycling, repairs, rentals and repurposing. Out of 163 economic sectors studied, "only" 14 will suffer losses, says the ILO. In total, 1.2 billion jobs worldwide directly depend on a healthy, sustainable environment.

To limit negative impacts and staff reductions, it is imperative to develop appropriate policies on workers' compensation, social protection and training, the ILO insists.

France has just launched its skills investment plan, which provides funding for 10,000 "green job” training courses this year. This could represent 4 million jobs in France. Losses could concern some 42,000 jobs, offset by the creation of 155,000 others, particularly in the sectors of construction (86,500), manufacturing (33,400) and services (32,000).

Concepcion Alvarez

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