Net zero jobs
The Government’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 will mean investment, and change, across the economy: from the decarbonisation of buildings and surface transport, to shifts in diet, aviation and industry. These changes will affect the UK public, both as consumers and as workers.
This briefing note explores the impact that the net zero transition will have on the UK labour force, by setting out the types of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ jobs that are most likely to experience change, analysing core differences in the workers that are employed in these jobs, and in the type of tasks that they typically perform.
We also examine how green and brown jobs have changed over time, and in particular consider the origins of green job workers today, including the share of workers that move from a brown job into a green job, and the key characteristics of those making such a move.
- Unlike the 1980s process of deindustrialisation, net zero does not generally imply closing down whole sectors in the UK (other than phasing out fossil fuel extraction entirely). Instead, it means adopting new technologies and processes within sectors and across systems, creating some new roles and changing the way that certain jobs are done.
- We identify sets of ‘green’ and ‘brown’ jobs that we expect to face significant change in their nature of work. Our approach identifies 41 ‘core green task’ occupations (representing 13 per cent of employment, or 4.3 million workers), which we define as the occupations that are the most likely to involve new green tasks and skills; and 34 ‘brown changer’ occupations (which together represent 4 per cent of people employed in 2019, or 1.3 million workers).
- Using our definitions, we find that men are more likely than women to work in both green (18 versus 8 per cent) and brown jobs (8 versus 2 per cent). There are differences across ethnic groups too, with White workers being the most likely to be found in green jobs.
- Green jobs tend to be concentrated in higher-skilled and higher-paid occupational groups, with green jobs comprising 40 per cent of employment in managerial occupations, 14 per cent in professional occupations and 21 per cent in associated professional occupations (compared with 13 per cent of employment overall).
- Brown jobs comprise just 1 per cent of employment in associate professional occupations (compared with 4 per cent of total employment) but are instead highly concentrated in process and plant operative occupations, where more than one-in-four (27 per cent) of workers are in a brown job.
- Green jobs are most concentrated in parts of London and the South East (for example, 17 per cent of employment in the High Wycombe and Aylesbury Travel to Work Area), whereas brown jobs are most concentrated in areas in Wales, Scotland and Northern England. For example, 16 per cent of employment in Barrow-in-Furness is in a brown job, as is 11 per cent of cent of employment in Newport and 9 per cent in Aberdeen.
- Green jobs are more likely than others to require non-routine analytical and personal tasks (which tend to be more prevalent in higher skilled occupations), and our set of brown jobs are much more likely to require routine manual and especially non-routine physical tasks.
- The limited growth in green jobs over the past decade has been driven more by workers moving from non-green jobs into green jobs, rather than by young workers who recently left education or workers who were previously out of employment. A wide range of green jobs have been filled by previously non-green workers, but workers moving into green jobs tend to be highly educated, and tend to move from jobs that are more similar to green occupations, for example requiring a significant amount of analytical tasks.
- Transitions out of, and reskilling of brown jobs – together with ensuring that the skills needs of green jobs are met – will likely require extra effort from firms, the Government and workers themselves, and such efforts are likely to vary across places, sectors and demographic groups. While our analysis has shown that on average green jobs have tended to be more prevalent amongst graduates, it is likely that many of the new skills required can also be delivered via on-the-job training and via the further education system.
For all research queries about this report, please contact Jonathan Marshall. For press queries, please contact the Resolution Foundation press office.