Close the Gap’s work on green jobs and skills
Background to the work
Green job creation is central to Scottish Government’s efforts to transition to a net-zero economy. Covid-19 has brought further weight to these considerations, with the Government’s focus turning to the importance of building a greener and fairer economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.
To date, little consideration has been afforded to the potential impact of the growth in green jobs on women’s employment and labour market equality. This is despite evidence that men and “men’s jobs” will disproportionately benefit from further investment in green jobs and sectors.
Close the Gap has advocated that a green economic recovery also needs to be a fairer economy for women.
Early findings and considerations
Our early analysis of the Government’s approach has highlighted concerns around the conceptualisation of green jobs; women’s under-representation in priority green sectors; and persistent barriers to women entering these sectors.
Within the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland’s Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan, five sectors are identified as being core to the net-zero economy. These male-dominated sectors include energy, transport, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing. Our analysis found that women account for less than one-quarter of people employed in these priority green sectors in Scotland.
The prioritisation of these sectors also highlights that green infrastructure continues to be understood by the Scottish Government in traditional terms, focused on physical infrastructure such as transport and housing. However, jobs in the female-dominated care sector are also low carbon jobs. Investment in care is 30% less polluting than the equivalent investment in construction, and would also produce 2.7 times as many jobs.
Increased policy focus and investment in male-dominated priority sectors, without action to reduce occupational segregation, will disbenefit women, worsen women’s unemployment, and widen the gender pay gap. The failure to invest in green social infrastructure, such as childcare and social care, which is essential to enable women’s labour market participation, also prevents progress on women’s equality.
We’ve called for Scottish Government to take a gender-sensitive approach to green jobs in our advocacy around the National Strategy on Economic Transformation. It’s now time for the Government to set out the action it will take to transition to a net-zero economy, without leaving women behind.
What needs to happen next?
In order to transform the economy so that it’s both greener and fairer, tackling occupational segregation and women’s broader inequality at work must be core to economic recovery policymaking. The drive for green jobs must be accompanied by measures to develop upskilling and reskilling opportunities which take account of the gendered barriers to training and development.
As occupational segregation is correlated with sector skills shortages, ensuring that women are able to access green jobs is also necessary to tackle skills gaps and meet increasing demand for labour in these sectors.
The Scottish Government and its delivery agencies must put fair work for women at the heart of plans to grow green sectors. This means tackling the gendered inequalities which sustain women’s under-representation in these sectors including the dearth of girls and young women studying STEM subjects; the lack of quality part-time and flexible working; biased and untransparent recruitment and development practice; and male-oriented workplace cultures.
The 2021/22 Programme for Government includes commitments on the creation of a Green Workforce Academy and Green Jobs Fund. However, there was a lack of detail around how gender equality has been considered in the development of these initiatives.
A starting point would be to ring-fence a proportion of the Green Jobs Fund for women. The Social Renewal Advisory Board made a similar recommendation to address under-represented groups in these sectors. Intersectional gender-disaggregated data must also be gathered on participants to identify whether the Fund is benefiting women as well as men.
In the coming months, Close the Gap will continue to advocate for a gender-sensitive approach to the green economic recovery. Scotland cannot have a “just transition” without enabling women and men to equally benefit from this labour market shift.
You can read more about our work on green jobs on the Close the Gap website.