The Solution to the Jobs Crisis: Go Green, Emphasize 'Low Productivity' Professions

Kirby Photo Archive/CC BY-ND 2.0

The latest US jobs stats from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics are in, with far fewer jobs added in May than expected—though compared to May 2009, both jobs and unemployment figures are quite rosy. Analysis of the data, what often seems like the national obsession, is available at the link above.

What I want to draw attention to, set against this backdrop, is a new report from UNEP, showing that tens of millions of new jobs will be created globally by transitioning to a low-carbon, greener economy. Specifically, a low-carbon economy is likely to create 15-60 million new jobs, even taking into account jobs lost from economic sectors unable to switch to low-carbon technologies.

UNEP executive director Achim Steiner, quoted by The Guardian:

The findings underline that [the green economy] can include million more people in terms overcoming poverty and delivering improved livelihoods for this and future generations. It is a positive message of opportunity in a troubled world of challenges.

Currently there about 3 million green jobs in the US, the report determined.

We've written about the potential of expanding green jobs many times on TreeHugger many times, so I'll spare you the rehashed content and instead direct you to the related links at left.

That said, here's one interesting take on jobs, employment and greening the economy more broadly (and appropriately, given that just focusing on jobs without talking about what those jobs are is as crude a tool as fetishizing GDP):

Over at Share the World's Resources (a fantastic site categorically, by the way, aggregating some really great content), economist Tim Jackson attempts to answer the green economic conundrum par excellence, "How can we end our addiction to economic growth, but increase employment even when the economy stagnates?"

Jackson proposes, heretically, to mainstream economists and popular received wisdom, we should focus on being less productive, a bit less efficient in places, and focus on "low productivity" sectors of the economy (according to Jackson, the caring professions and education are good examples of this).

The endemic modern tendency to streamline or phase out such professions highlights the lunacy at the heart of the growth-obsessed, resource-intensive consumer economy. Low productivity is seen as a disease. A whole set of activities that could provide meaningful work and contribute valuable services to the community are denigrated because they involve employing people to work with devotion, patience and attention.

But people often achieve a greater sense of well-being and fulfillment, both as producers and consumers of such activities, than they ever do in the time-poor, materialistic supermarket economy in which most of our lives are spent. And here perhaps is the most remarkable thing of all: since these activities are built around the value of human services rather than the relentless outpouring of material stuff, they offer a half-decent chance of making the economy more environmentally sustainable.

Tags: Economics | Green Jobs

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