UK Government not on track to achieve green jobs target, latest official data suggests

The IEA also predicts that the energy sector will experience its “fastest employment growth in recent years” this year

The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest annual survey of the green economy has been published this week, revealing that there were still fewer people working in green sectors in 2020 than there were in 2014.

The survey covers employment in 17 sectors relating to low-carbon and renewable energy, including nuclear power generation, renewable power generation, energy flexibility, energy efficiency and electric vehicles (EVs). 

Across all 17 sectors, the UK hosted some 207,800 full-time equivalent roles in 2020 – a minor increase on the 2019 level of 202,100 full-time equivalent roles. This number of roles is around 1% of the UK’s total non-financial employment for 2020 – the same proportion as in 2019.

The increase was ultimately not enough to push the UK to a new record. The ONS recorded 235,900 full-time equivalent jobs in the green economy in 2014 and this remains the record high. Each edition since 2014 has continued to track challenges in growing sectors including carbon capture, onshore wind, tidal energy and hydropower.

As in previous years, the vast majority of the jobs assessed have been located in the UK (82%) and the manufacturing of products that improve energy efficiency is the largest sector in terms of jobs, accounting for 42% of full-time equivalent roles.

The ONS has called the sector’s slight overall increase in turnover and employment as indicative of “no significant change”.

Nonetheless, there is some good news to be taken from the ONS’s survey. It reveals that large businesses, classed as those with 250 or more staff, recorded just a 6% year-on-year drop in turnover from green activities in 2020.

Recapping on the state of play

The Government’s green jobs target is for the UK to host two million full-time equivalent roles by 2030. Given that the Net-Zero Strategy, published last autumn, only details the creation of a further 440,000 roles by 2030, MPs and industry groups have repeatedly been asking for clearer jobs and skills plans – but are yet to receive the answers they have been hoping for.

To help improve policymaking in this field, the Government moved in 2020 to create a Green Jobs Taskforce featuring representatives from trade bodies, NGOs, the education sectors and several of the UK’s biggest employers in low-carbon and renewable energy sectors, such as Nissan and National Grid.

The Taskforce last year published its first policy briefing. Recommendations yet to be fulfilled include an update to the Skills for Jobs White Paper and the creation of a UK-wide body tasked with connecting local transition bodies to ensure sufficient place-based investment. Some recommendations, such as the inclusion of net-zero measures within international trade frameworks, are being implemented.

Sarah George

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