A green skills shortage across the OECD is holding back growth in sustainable development jobs and could jeopardise the race to reach net zero by 2050, according to a new OECDreport.
“Bridging the Great Green Divide” shows the share of workers in green-taskjobs – defined as jobs where at least 10% of tasks directly supports sustainable development – grew just 2 percentage points across 30 OECD countries over the last decade, from 16% in 2011 to 18% in 2021, with significant differences within countries. Without urgent action to boost skills, the green transition could deepen inequalities and threaten progress towards 2050 net-zero goals.
Capital cities such as Paris, Stockholm and Vilnius usually have a greater concentration of highly skilled workers, with the share of green-task jobs as high as 30%. In comparison, this figure can be as low as 5% in more remote regions. This difference risks exacerbating a social divide, said the OECD in a statement.
“The geography of the green transition is uneven across the OECD. There is increasing convergence between countries but increasing divergence within countries in the creation of green job opportunities,” OECD Deputy Secretary-GeneralYoshiki Takeuchi said. “Bridging this divide will be vital if we are to reach net zero by 2050. Investing in skills and, with women also underrepresented in green jobs, tackling gender biases can pave the way for a just transition.”
The green transition also risks widening the gap between workers. More than half of workers in green jobs have completed higher education, compared to about one-third of those in non-green jobs, and enjoy a 20% wage premium compared with non-green jobs. Women account for only 28% of green jobs, reflecting their underrepresentation in key fields of study – less than 25% of graduates in engineering and less than 20% in computing are women.
While men predominate in green jobs, they also make up 83% of work in industries with the highest share of polluting jobs, such as mining and manufacturing – sectors where significant transitions will be required. Those working in polluting jobs are less likely to take advantage of training for green job opportunities.
National governments need to be alert to these differences, and empower and support vulnerable places and workers to develop the right skills to succeed in the green transition. This should also include targeted support for workers at risk of displacement, services to enable them to transition into new local jobs and measures that help firms to create new green jobs – which will not only enable a just transition but also accelerate global efforts towards net zero.