Cornell University

March 19 2008

What, really, are "green" jobs?  What will they do to the world economy?

United Nations Green Jobs Report co-authored by ILR's Global Labor Institute

Good Jobs Green Jobs"Green" jobs are red hot.

What, though, defines "green"?

And how will "green" impact the world economy?

The Cornell University ILR School's Global Labor Institute gives a broad look in a United Nations report it is co-authoring with the Worldwatch Institute.

Commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, the "Green Jobs Report" will be the largest green jobs analysis in the world when it is published in April.

Jill Kubit, a member of the Cornell-Worldwatch team working on the United Nations project, says the report will help policy makers nationally and globally make decisions about what kinds of investments, economic incentives and standards will help drive the new green economy and create decent, green employment.

The report synthesizes hundreds of national and international research projects and includes conclusions such as:

  • By 2040, 1.7 billion people in rich nations will need to consume up to 90 percent less in order for the world’s 3 billion poor to consume more.
  • Fewer goods can mean more jobs, if manufacturing shifts to "a more craft oriented, small batch" mentality.
  • Overall, in countries where data is available, the renewables sector employs around 2.3 million people. Renewables are energy forms such as wind, solar, biomass/biofuel, hydropower and geothermal power.
  • A shift in transportation from private vehicles to public transportation would result in a net gain of employment.

The Green Jobs Report is funded by the Union Nations Environment Programme as part of its Green Jobs Initiative with the International Labour Organisation and the International Trade Union Confederation.

In both national and international policy debate, "there is a lot of talk about new green jobs," Kubit said. This report, she said, helps gauge the number of green jobs around the world and the potential for new employment in the renewable energy, transportation, building, and industry sectors.

The Cornell-Worldwatch team debuted sections of the draft report at the "Good Jobs, Green Jobs" conference in Pittsburgh in March. The conference was organized by the Blue-Green Alliance, a strategic partnership between the United Steelworkers and the Sierra Club. More than 800 people from the burgeoning green jobs industry attended, including members of trade unions, environmental groups, advocacy organizations, business and government.

Kubit is assistant director of Cornell's Global Labor Institute in New York City. Kubit is co-authoring the report with Sean Sweeney, director of the Cornell Global Institute, and Michael Renner from the Worldwatch Institute. Renner, principal author of the report, is a leading authority in the green jobs field.

The Cornell Global Labor Institute, a new initiative in the University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, is focused on global workplace, development and sustainability issues. Information about the ILR School and its Global Labor Institute is available at

The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization based in Washington, D.C.