Green jobs on the rise in the UK

For every step we take into the future, there are always a number of people who end up feeling left behind. Progress is incremental, and not all of us feel it the same way.

If you were to time travel back to England at the height of the Industrial Revolution or the Victorian Era, you would have found a larger share of the people spending their working days harvesting crops in the fields, manufacturing goods in factories, or digging for fuel and resources in mines.

Critics of a greener way of running the economy might claim that the decarbonisation of the economy is a noble aim, but only possible by putting a proportion of the population out of work. Recent data suggests otherwise…

In 2021, fewer of us are working in these sectors, partly as a result of economic trends but also as a result of technological change. It’s natural to be concerned about those who might be left behind by these trends, but there are encouraging signs that green jobs are starting to fill the void.

Progress in the economy

Without a doubt, deindustrialisation of the economy has been one of the major drivers helping countries such as the UK to reduce its carbon emissions. A switch from emissions-intensive factories towards a more services-oriented economy has been just one of the factors helping cut the UK’s carbon footprint in half since 1973.

However, fewer heavy industry factories and more robotised production lines means fewer jobs available to regular people. Concerns have been raised before about the consequences of mass unemployment over the last 40 years and its impact on national politics. In fact, many recent events including the election of President Donald Trump in 2016 have been partly attributed to a large number of disaffected voters looking for guidance in places such as the US Rust Belt, a vast swathe of deindustrialised cities and towns outside the metropolitan parts of the country.

Critics of a greener way of running the economy might claim that the decarbonisation of the economy is a noble aim, but only possible by putting a proportion of the population out of work. Recent data suggests otherwise – green industries are thriving, and more people are working in them than ever before.

Rise of the green economy

In March 2021, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the UK low carbon and renewable energy economy (LCREE) employed over 200,000 people and made an estimated turnover of £42.6 billion in 2019. That includes businesses creating low-emissions vehicles, energy-efficient products, or working in the fields of bioenergy and renewable energy generation, as well as energy monitoring services.

These are jobs that quite simply didn’t exist in 1973, creating fresh opportunities for people to find lucrative careers in industries which look set to stand the test of time, building cleaner cars and helping generate sustainable energy.

There are encouraging signs of growth in the UK LCREE, with businesses with over 250 members of staff seeing three per cent employment growth between 2018-19. Turnover for these businesses grew by nine per cent during the same period, reflecting a mood of optimism, especially in the creation of low-emission cars.

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