The answer to Asia’s plight of labor displacement from new technology may come from the environment.
During its 51st meeting in Mandaluyong City on Friday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) urged countries in the Asia-Pacific region to take advantage of the new job opportunities from the growing international demand for environment-friendly businesses and jobs in the next decade.
“Creating more jobs is essential for this region. Asia has created 30 million jobs annually, mostly in industry and service for the past 25 years, but it will have to create more in the future as our workforce is projected to increase by another 11 million from 2015 to 2030,” ADB Sustainable Development and Climate Change Department Director-General Amy S.P. Leung said.
“Greening economies can be a driver for growth by incorporating the development of new sectors and employment as the economies transition,” Leung added.
The United Nations defines green economy as any economic activity “that improves human well-being and builds social equity while reducing environmental risks and scarcities.”
ADB Development Economics and Indicators Division Director Rana Hasan did confirm that some sectors, which will generate new jobs amid a technological revolution in Asia, are in green enterprises like renewable energy.
“Technology [could] help protect displaced workers [but only] if the necessary policy coordination is in place,” Hasan said.
In 2013 the ADB reported renewable energy generated 3.5 million jobs. This grew to 8.1 million in 2015. By 2030, it is projected to create 24 million jobs.
“Fifty percent of this growth has taken place in Asia,” Leung said.
Making the transition
The International Labor Organization (ILO) confirmed the emerging global interest for the so-called green economy, as more countries reel from the effects of climate change.
The ILO claims the green economy will help create 15 million to 60 million jobs worldwide up to 2040.
“While climate change has often devastating consequences, confronting it has great potential for job creation; not just jobs, but decent jobs,” Tomoko Nishimoto, ILO regional director Asia and Pacific, said.
However, Nishimoto said Asian governments would have to implement the necessary cross-cutting reforms to ensure a green economy would be able to absorb workers who will be displaced by disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics.
She said Asian countries should not only put in place policies to promote so-called green jobs but also provide the necessary skills and welfare to people who would be hired for such jobs.
NONETHELESS, the ADB and ILO lauded the Philippines for having the most advanced policy in Southeast Asia in promoting the green economy. The two institutions cited Republic Act (RA) 10771, or the Green Jobs Act in 2016, as such policy.
The law grants economic incentives like tax deductions to companies engaged in environment-friendly initiatives.
“Our law on green jobs models a way for countries to pursue a green economy in line with the goal of the Paris Agreement,” Climate Change Commission Philippines Secretary Emmanuel M. de Guzman said.
While the policy drew praises in the international community, the program is yet to be fully implemented by the government.
De Guzman admitted the certification standards for companies applying for incentives under RA 10771 have yet to be completed.
This was confirmed by ILO Green Jobs National Project Coordinator Gwyneth Anne Palmos, who is involved in the crafting of the said standards.
“It was delayed because of [a] transition in the administration,” Palmos said.
She also noted the long period they need to draft the standards since these apply to different requirements per industry.
“This requires extensive consultation from stakeholders,” Palmos added.
Palmos said they aim to complete the standards by June to make the Philippines among the first in Southeast Asia with legislation promoting green economy.