The circular economy, a solution to unemployment

Posted on 29 September 2020.

Numerous studies show that in addition to solving the problem of the depletion of the planet's resources, the circular economy creates sustainable jobs that can’t be relocated.

The International Labor Organization forecasts 18 million sustainable jobs will be created by 2030.

The planet is running out of steam and our linear economic model has shown its limitations. Nevertheless, even now a large number of policy measures advance the jobs argument and fail to take into account the need to combat climate change.

But in this context, governments have every interest in investing in the circular economy. Contrary to popular belief, the circular economy drives job creation as well as ensuring more responsible consumption of natural resources.

This is the conclusion of numerous studies - such as the report published by McKinsey & Company consultants published in 2015. For its part, in a study published 2018, the International Labor Organization forecasts 18 million sustainable jobs will be created by 2030, including 4 million in manufacturing and 9 million in renewable energy and construction.

While the effects of the circular economy on employment are positive, they will nonetheless entail a change in the distribution of jobs between different sectors of activity. Given the lower demand for raw materials, demand for jobs in the extractive industries, for example, will be lower.

Overall, measures to promote a greener economy will result in the loss of 6 million jobs. However, these losses will be offset by the creation of 24 million jobs in the economy as a whole. According to the various reports produced on the subject, sectors engaged in recycling, maintenance and repair activities will be among the fastest growing sectors – and these reports also agree that local jobs will receive a boost.

 

Principle of proximity

Indeed, the principle of proximity is inherent in the circular economy. Its first pillar - sustainable supply - encourages the development of responsible consumption on a regional scale. It thus implies creating jobs that cannot be relocated elsewhere.

In the field of agriculture, in France for example Associations pour le Maintien d'une Agriculture Paysanne (AMAP) are establishing direct links between local farmers and consumers, thereby helping to shorten supply chains between producers and consumers while simultaneously creating local jobs.

Similarly, repair and recycling activities help to reduce resource consumption and waste production, as well as maintaining and developing qualified local jobs.

Through these approaches, the circular economy could therefore offer a social remedy to the employment crisis affecting European countries. However, policies for innovation and training - two key employment issues - will be needed to ensure that workers are involved in the quest for greener growth.