In today’s context of pronounced economic uncertainty, the green economy is under more scrutiny than ever. Few other sectors in Canada have been lauded as strongly for the potential to mitigate environmental degradation, support long term economic growth, and most importantly, create new jobs.
So far, Canada’s employment gains have been slow, but steady. In a recent release from Statistics Canada, there was an employment increase of 61,000 full-time positions in September—an important addition that has pushed the total Canadian unemployment rate down 0.2 percentage points to 7.1%.
As this cautious employment recovery continues (fingers crossed), what is the impact of green economic development? General jobs in the overall Canadian economy may be increasing, but are specifically “green” jobs growing too?
Previous attempts to address this question have tended to focus on the occupations created in emerging areas, such as renewable energy or carbon and climate change mitigation. While measuring the growth of these jobs is certainly important, it is also crucial to consider all the additional occupations that have developed as businesses across industries adopt sustainable practices.
This larger trend towards sustainability, efficiency and reduced environmental impact has meant that establishments outside of the traditionally defined environmental sector are also employing workers who can apply specialized skills to support environment-related activities.
Keeping this more dispersed form of green job growth in mind, there are three main indicators of the increase in environmental occupations:
Number of Employees Performing Environmental Work:
In 2007, the Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment estimated that there were 530,414 environmental employees in Canada, based on employers’ reports of how many environmental workers they employed at their organizations.
By contrast, an updated version of the same report found three years later, there were 682,000 Canadian professionals who spent 50% or more of their time performing environmental activities. When this estimate was expanded to include all employees who spent any amount of time engaged in environment-related work, there was a remarkable 2,000,000 employees in Canada, or roughly 12% of the total Canadian workforce.
Number of Organizations that Employ Environmental Workers:
From 2007 to 2010, the proportion of organizations in Canada that employ environmental professionals has also grown substantially. In 2007, there were 105,221 estimated establishments in Canada who employed one or more environment employee, accounting for 10.1% of all organizations in Canada.
In the 2010 Profile report, this number had grown to 318,964 organizations, or approximately 17% of all Canadian establishments. The majority of these organizations operated in industries associated with public administration; administration and support, waste management and remediation; and mining and oil/gas extraction.
Projected Hiring Trends
This last indicator of green job growth involves a look towards the future. Based on the responses of businesses involved in environmental activities in the 2010 Profile of Canadian Environmental Employment, about 44% of employers were planning to hire in at least one NOS (National Occupational Standards) category within the next two years. These occupational areas included site assessment and reclamation, waste management, and environmental health and safety.
Employers in the report also provided additional detail on which occupations they were planning to hire for in particular. The most frequently mentioned jobs included environmental engineers and specific engineering specialties (such as civil or mechanical engineers). Employers also planned to hire a large number of workers as operations managers, project managers, water and wastewater technicians, waste management workers, engineering technologists/technicians, and health and safety technicians.
With Canada’s employment rate hovering around a very tentative recovery phase, the proliferation of green jobs and skills could make a significant difference.
What is your own view of green job growth? Have you observed additional evidence for the spread of environmental work across industries?