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Australia needs 'Green Collar' workers

17 May 2010

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A new report from researchers at the Workplace Research Centre (WRC), in the Faculty of Economics and Business at the University of Sydney has found more 'Green Collar' jobs are needed if key climate change challenges facing the Australian economy are to be met.

Dr Mike Rafferty and Serena Yu from WRC were commissioned by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to produce the Skills for Green Jobs in Australia report.

The report focuses on the potential employment impacts of moving to a low-carbon economy and specifically considers:

  • Mitigating displacement in industries and occupations likely to decline, such as cotton farming and mining;
  • Supporting the emergence of new jobs in rising industries such as the renewable energy sector; and
  • The 'greening' of established jobs, such as plumbing and accounting.

Serena Yu said: "Australia is currently a relative energy and emissions intensive economy, with the highest emissions per capita in the OECD. The challenge for Australia is large. But, research by groups such as the CSIRO have estimated that responding to a carbon constrained future will not only yield environmental benefits, but will produce positive outcomes for jobs in areas such as the construction and transport industries".

The report has found that in Australia the initial response to the emerging need for green skills has to date been met by individual, industry and state level initiatives, without a coordinated national strategy. This is slowly changing, for example, with the endorsement of a national Green Skills Agreement to ensure the delivery of skills for sustainability through the vocational education and training system, as well as other initiatives including the National Strategy on Energy Efficiency and the Clean Energy Initiative.

"The incentives put in place by the government to drive behavioural and business change, and the creation of certainty around policy and regulatory requirements, will be increasingly important when it comes to developing skills for green jobs in Australia," Serena said.

The research finds that Australia is well positioned to take advantage of growth in lower-emission goods and services, particularly in the renewable energy and land and water resource management. Currently, over 1,200 people are permanently employed in the operation and maintenance of clean energy facilities, in addition to supporting over 7,300 indirect jobs. The analysis indicates that, in relation to existing, committed and planned clean energy projects, over 2,400 direct permanent jobs are likely to be created, with a further 25,000 construction and indirect jobs being generated by 2,020.

Yu and Rafferty said they hoped this report will encourage closer relationships between business enterprises, industry organisations and educational institutions to make real changes to employment structures.

"Skills for Green Jobs" Project

The ILO Skills for Green Jobs project is part of a wider Green jobs initiative jointly implemented by the ILO, The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), The International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). The green jobs initiative is intended to support efforts by governments, employers and trade unions to promote environmentally sustainable jobs and developments in a climate challenged world.

Workplace Research Centre

The Skills For Green Jobs in Australia report will be released to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the University of Sydney's Workplace Research Centre.

Headed by Director Dr John Buchanan, the WRC was opened in 1989 as the Australian Centre for Industrial Relations Research and Training (ACIRRT). Throughout its history, the WRC has had an important role in raising the standard of public debate about various workplace and industrial relations issues in Australia.

More information about WRC (including full program and Conference speaker profiles) can be found at

Climate Change @ Work conference

Michael Rafferty and Serena Yu will be presenting the findings of Skills for Green Jobs in Australia report at the Climate Change @ Work Conference taking place on the 26th of May at the Hilton Sydney. They will appear at this conference alongside key workplace sustainability leaders and Green Jobs experts.

Keynote speaker Michael Renner, has been a leading figure in international research on Green Skills and has been an important figure in the ILO's Green Skills research. Renner visiting from the USA will present an overview of global developments and the findings of the latest international research.

Also speaking at the conference will be University of Sydney's Sam Mostyn, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions and Anne Moore CEO of SydneyTalent.

Those attending the Climate Change @ Work conference will be sent a copy of Skills for Green Jobs in Australia report as soon as it is finalized.

For media passes Karen Treacy: 02 9351 5624

Date: 26th May 2010
Time: 09:00am - 05:00pm
Venue: The Hilton Hotel Sydney, 488 George Street
Full Day: $795.00 (inc GST)