Environmental protection and employment

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More than 2 million people are employed in environmental protection
Source: Robert Churchill / Thinkstock

The number of people working in environmental protection has increased steadily in recent years. In 2017, more than 2.8 million people were working in the environmental protection sector. As environmental protection measures often benefit labour-intensive sectors and replace imports with domestic value-added, the net employment effects of environmental protection are often also positive.

Environmental protection is a social and political task with its own objectives. It therefore follows that the further development of environmental protection should not be confined to those areas that promote employment. And yet, it is nevertheless useful to exploit possible synergies between environmental policy and employment. After all, with an eye to sustainable development, the positive effects of environmental protection on the labour market are an important link in the chain. It connects the economic, social and ecological dimensions of sustainability.

The increasing importance of environmental protection in the jobs market

The importance of environmental protection in the jobs market has increased steadily in recent years. In 2017 more than 2.8 million people were employed in environmental protection in Germany. This corresponds to a share of 6.4 per cent of Germany’s total workforce. However, it is not only in the classic environmental protection areas such as waste management, water pollution control, noise abatement, air quality control and renewable energies that jobs are being created. This is also happening in the upstream stages of the value added chain. Moreover, sectors such as the automotive and chemical industries and agriculture must focus more strongly than before on environmental trends. With an eye in particular to environmental technology services, the services sector has an equally important role to play.

The net job creation effects of environmental protection

Even when the costs involved are taken into account, environmental protection does on balance create jobs. This is because it tends to be the labour-intensive sectors that benefit, for example the energy-related modernisation of buildings. What’s more, environmental protection measures do in some cases replace imports with domestic value added. This is the case, for instance, when it comes to investing in energy efficiency and the increased use of renewable energy sources that reduce the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and gas. The use of renewable energies alone served to reduce energy imports to the tune of more than eight million euros in 2014.

Specialist staff are an important location factor

According to forecasts, the global market for environmental protection goods is set to grow disproportionately. The improvement of energy and raw material efficiency is playing an increasingly important role in many industries. It is in the light of this development that companies have a major incentive to position themselves well in “green future markets”. This would also have a positive impact on the labour market. After all, the appropriate qualifications must be available on the labour market if these job-creation potentials are to be realised.

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