Investing in green recovery post Covid could create 1.6 million jobs, says study

With furloughed staff unable to resume their old roles and demand for products and services low, the government must prioritise ‘future-proof sectors’, say experts

Investing in green recovery post Covid could create 1.6 million jobs, says study

Investing in green recovery could create 1.6 millions new jobs after the coronavirus crisis has ended, according to research. 

The report, compiled by think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), called on the government to invest urgently in a “jobs-led recovery” for the economy after the pandemic, focused on helping the UK meet its targets for improving air quality, lowering carbon dioxide emissions and restoring nature. 

The IPPR warned that the investment promised so far on green recovery fell short of what was needed, with more required in order to create “clean, low-carbon jobs”. By investing in this area, the IPPR calculated the UK could create 1.6 million new jobs, which it argued offered the most effective route out of a post-coronavirus economic crisis. 

Economists at the IPPR examined a range of low-carbon jobs and industries that could help the economy recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. Without government intervention, they found unemployment could rise by more than 2.1 million: almost 10 per cent of the workforce. 

The body projected that improving the energy efficiency of homes could generate 560,000 jobs. It calculated that investing in health and social care could create 700,000 jobs; in sustainable public transport 230,000 jobs; and in tree planting and nature restoration 46,000 jobs. 

Carsten Jung, senior economist at the IPPR and co-author of the report, said now was the right time to invest in and drive a sustainable recovery – not only for the environment but also for the economy. 

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“The Covid crisis is an unprecedented disruption of the labour market,” he said. “Even as the economy reopens, many furloughed workers might not be able to return to their old jobs. Concerted investment by the government, businesses and households can generate employment in new future-proof sectors.” 

Gerwyn Davies, senior labour market adviser at the CIPD, said the main factor limiting employers’ ability to hire at the moment was a lack of demand for products and services. As such, it made sense to stimulate demand in other areas of the economy through publicly funded work creation schemes, he said.

“Any plan should therefore consider an employment offer to people who have been unemployed for more than six months that combines training in green technologies with some practical work activity,” Davies said. “This could both be part of a bigger package of measures that the government is expected to roll out over the coming months, and play a greater role in the government’s industrial strategy.”

Earlier this week, the prime minister set out the first steps in the government’s strategy to fuel economic recovery after the pandemic. Boris Johnson promised the government was committed not just to “defeating coronavirus, but to using this crisis to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades”. 

This included building homes, “fixing” the NHS, tackling the skills crisis and a renewed promise on investment in a green recovery. The government announced it would bring forward a £40m ‘green recovery challenge fund’ to help charities and environmental organisations start work on projects across England to tackle climate change. 

The government said this fund would help organisations and their suppliers create up to 3,000 jobs and safeguard others. The fund would create a range of short and long-term jobs, such as ecologists, surveyors, nature reserve staff and education workers, it said.

This move to invest in green recovery was likely to attract public support, according to a poll of 2,000 adults by Savanta ComRes for the IPPR. Three-quarters (74 per cent) of respondents agreed that actions to address climate change could help create jobs and opportunities, while two-thirds (67 per cent) agreed it would create roles in their local communities.