- THE MAGAZINE
It was the 20th anniversary of the Green Jobs Program in China last year and things have been booming for some time in the Green Energy recruitment sector and in the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. As recently as two years ago, some parts of the media were recommending that China was the place to go for green jobs. Has this continued to be the case and at what cost?
Back in 2010 the annual report from research firm Clean Edge said that China’s green jobs from solar and other clean tech industries was increasing at a higher rate than the U.S. and the rest of the world. They concluded that China appeared to be on an “unstoppable upward path” in the global race for green energy jobs. Indeed China has been at the top of the green jobs game and is still targeting to have 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2020. This target and China’s fast growing economy has the potential to create millions of new green jobs according to the Worldwatch Institute. Jobs in energy, transportation and forestry alone could provide 4.5 million jobs by 2020 and millions more–the problem is how to count them. China may be surging ahead but it is behind in the methods used to keep track of employment trends and data.
Just Try Counting China’s Green Jobs
China will continue creating jobs faster than it can count them until it acquires a more robust way of measuring employment growth. The U.S. has industry bodies and long established practices for monitoring job creation and, according to Worldwatch China, will need to aim for something similar given its standout role in the global green economy. Such rapid growth is apparently not without some downsides. The sometimes less than perfect implementation has led to some economic and environmental costs such as nearly one-third of China’s wind capacity having grid connection difficulties causing huge investment loss. Having a cohesive green development plan may also prove difficult as the local governments focus more on economic growth than being aware of the side effects of rapid change.
China Not Alone in Green Job Creation
China is a world leader in developing the solar industry and is projected to create thousands of jobs by 2020. Wind power will generate even more jobs and China is set to manufacture 16.7 million hybrid or electric cars by 2020, creating even more jobs according to the same Worldwatch report. The Asia Business Council predicts that up to 100 million new green jobs will open up worldwide by 2030 and many of these will be in Asia as the demand for energy friendly materials for construction grows stronger. During the International Green Building Conference and the Build Eco Xpo Asia in 2012, Tai Lee Siang, the president of the Singapore Green Building Council, said, “The green economy is a big job creator in transforming Asia’s environment toward a sustainable future.”
China and many countries in the Asia-Pacific region will be constantly looking for skilled workers at least until 2020 to meet green targets and beyond 2030 to fuel the rapidly growing demand for a greener economy through green energy, building and transportation schemes. Lee said to more than 1,000 industry delegates from more than 30 countries that, “Notably it is in the developing countries that the environmental market is undergoing an explosion. Growth in the Asia and Pacific region is expected to triple by 2015, making it the fastest-growing region for environmental goods and services in the world. In terms of employment, the implications of this are enormous.”
Green Jobs Rocket in Emerging Economies as Mature Market Investment Slows
China and many emerging economies are benefiting from an investment slowdown in the more established markets such as the U.S. and Europe according to recent figures from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It reveals investment rising 20 percent to $67.7 billion last year wrestling the U.S. out of the top spot. As renewables investment falls in the U.S. it’s worth taking a look at what is happening a little closer to home. According to the same Clean Edge report Mexico is a strong contender in the green jobs race. "With a combination of cheap labor and geographic proximity, the United States' third-largest trading partner is attracting attention from those looking for low-cost access to the North American clean-tech market," the authors said. Green job creation south of the border is on the rise with Japanese firm Sanyo, making solar panels in a factory in Mexico, and the German manufacturer Leibher, using a facility in Monterrey to make parts for the U.S. market. It may not be just China dominating the green jobs race for much longer.