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Green Jobs Challenges and Prospects in India

By GovernanceToday
In Cover Story
April 28, 2017

cover-storyGrowing interest in protecting the environment and combating  climate change coupled with the challenge to provide employment to a burgeoning working age population has resulted in the creation of green jobs.  Green jobs span a wide array of occupational profiles, of skills and of educational backgrounds. Some constitute entirely new types of jobs, but most build on traditional professions and occupations, albeit with more or less modified  job contents and competencies. This is true for direct green jobs as well as for indirect ones in upstream supplier industries. Even in the case of new industries and technologies, such as wind energy and solar power generation, the supply chains consist largely of traditional industries like iron and steel and the manufacture of machine parts.   In India, the demand for environment-friendly practices and the growth in renewable energy sector, solid waste management, clean transportation and sustainable  construction activities among others has led to a wide scope for green jobs, also known as green collar jobs. Several initiatives of the government, private sector and NGOs are providing a push for green jobs.

There is evidence of the viability and potential for green jobs across the entire workforce, from manual labourers through skilled workers, craftsmen and entrepreneurs to highly qualified technicians, engineers and managers. Green jobs currently exist and can develop further in many economic sectors both in urban and rural economies. As green jobs become much sought after, there has also been an explosion in the number of courses devoted to green technology. The wind energy giant Suzlon Group had earlier joined up with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) University, based in New Delhi to introduce a Masters in Renewable Energy Engineering and Management. A lot of other renowned educational stalwarts like Delhi University, Pune University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai and the Indian Institution of Technology (IIT) have all incorporated ‘green’ courses at the Bachelors, Masters and even PhD level. As the need evolves, green jobs will become more specialised, which will then open up specialised training courses, predict the job market observers.

With the aim of providing a greener economy and creating environmental-friendly employment opportunities, the government is also providing an  impetus for green jobs as part of restructured growth strategies under its ‘Make in India’ vision. In India around ten to 11 million people join the job market every year and creating green jobs is an ideal way to meet that demand.

According to experts emerging economies such as India will have higher net job creation of green jobs because there will be less substitution of high-carbon infrastructure and jobs.

Key Factors of Green Jobs in India

Estimates suggest that India needs approximately 70   million new jobs by 2017 to maintain a relatively low unemployment rate in the country. Thus, the rise in green jobs could aid in keeping unemployment in check as well as provide livelihood opportunities to a vast segment of the population.

Unlike the IT sector boom in the country which saw a rapid growth in white collar jobs, a steadily growing green economy has the potential to create medium and low-skilled jobs in sectors like waste management and recycling, mechanics in clean technology industries, energy, transport and workers in the construction and maintenance of green building projects. Thus, by catering to the bottom of the pyramid population, green jobs could also help to reduce poverty in the long-term.

Green Policy: In 2006, the government of India came out with a new environment policy called the National Environment Policy (NEP). The main objectives of this policy are conserving critical environment resources, livelihood security for the poor, integration of environmental concerns in economic and social development and maintaining efficiency in environment resource use.

Green Education and Training: In 2010, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) started working on a plan to launch several short-term diplomas and technical training courses in the renewable and clean energy sector to prepare a technically skilled workforce for the coming years. In addition, academic and research institutes have started courses and programmes for teaching green skills all across the country.

Green Sectors: India’s lowcarbon technology market is estimated to reach USD 135 billion by 2020, making the country one of the most lucrative destinations for investment. Growth in the renewable energy sector has been significant over the past few years and with abundant renewable resources available in India, the growth is expected to continue in the future.

Tremendous Potential for Future Green Jobs

It is estimated that the demand for green professionals and workers could grow by 55-60 per cent in the coming years in India. Creating skilled manpower for green jobs will thus be the main priority of the government and private sector in the future. The government will need new policy measures on wage rate, working conditions, employee benefits etc. to foster green job growth and to create enabling environment for green workers. Also, India will require a separate department to implement and execute polices related to green jobs as well as cater to green professionals. In addition, emerging green occupations call for the need of new training programs and upgrading the skills of workers in response to adoption of new technologies. To increase the accessibility of training and skill development, foundations and NGOs can introduce programmes for women, marginalised groups and rural communities in remote villages of the country.

Encouragingly, the business case for greening both the economy and the job market has been growing increasingly powerful. Energy and commodity prices are surging and customers and policy makers are exerting growing pressure on businesses to adopt greener practices and production methods in order to avert dangerous climate change. The greening of the economy presents a major opportunity to start new businesses, develop new markets and lower energy costs. Last but not least it can strengthen a business’ licence to operate, generating positive attitudes of both the activities and investments of firms among customers and local communities alike.

Observed trends in markets and investments confirm this assessment. The global market for environmental products and services is projected to double from USD 1, 370 billion per year at present to USD 2,740 billion by 2020, according to RolandBerger Strategy Consultants. Half of this market is based in energy efficiency and the balance in sustainable transport, water supply, sanitation and waste management. In Germany, for example environmental technology is to grow fourfold to 16 percent of industrial output by 2030, with employment in this sector surpassing that of the country’s major industries in the machine tools and automotive sectors. Investments in improved energy efficiency in buildings could generate an additional 2–3.5 million green jobs in Europe and the United States alone. The potential is much higher in developing countries like India and China.

Given the population growth rate, India needs to create 10 million new jobs every year. Analysis carried out by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates that more than 1 million full-time equivalent jobs would be created by the solar deployment industry alone, between now and 2022. These would include over 210,000 skilled plant design and site engineering jobs, 18,000 highly skilled jobs in business development and over 80,000 annual jobs for performance data monitoring.

Analysis based on survey responses from 40 solar companies in India highlights the current unavailability of appropriately skilled manpower for construction and commissioning of solar units as a significant challenge to the solar industry. Similarly, wind sector respondents suggested that the current skilling programmes needed to be made more relevant and accessible, such that companies are assured of the high quality of training. This is where the ambitious renewable energy target of the country interlinks with the Skill India initiative, which aims to skill 400 million people by 2022. It will be crucial to develop standardized training programmes that can be implemented through institutes around the country, with training institutes being set up in areas with the most renewable energy potential and upcoming capacity.

In Transport sector the pace of job creation is slow and patchy,  but in view of increasing demand of retro-fitting and use of CNG fuel, hybrid electrical buses, trucks and passenger cars, so there is huge requirement of mechanical and related jobs. Only in Delhi, the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) urgently requires over 17,000 jobs. Public transport contributes to green growth and jobs in many different ways: it is a source of a diverse range of green and local jobs; if offers good training and qualifications (notably for drivers); it provides new opportunities for specialist suppliers; and it encourages better connectivity within cities. UITP’s strategy for the public transport sector sets out the aim to double the market share of public transport worldwide by 2025. Achieving this aim would further develop employment in the public transport sector-it would for instance double the number of jobs at public transport operating companies- and would support the healthy development of cities.

If one were to see the market potential for green buildings in India, green construction don’t even account for 5 per cent of the current stock. Hence, there is a huge potential. According to Dodge Data & Analytics World Green Building TrendsSmartMarket Report, by 2018 the green building industry in India will grow 20 per cent driven largely by environmental regulations and demand for healthier neighbourhoods. Findings in the report point out that new, high-rise residential communities and mixed-use development are expected to be the top three sectors for green building growth in India that would fuel the demand of skilled and semi-skilled jobs in this segment. Since 75 per cent of the buildings that will exist in 2030 are yet to be built, this will provide increased job opportunities in the green buildings segment.

In another study by the United Nations Environment Programme, a proposed project on communitylevel waste segregation has the cover-story-pic2

Management Occupations

Sustainability managers come from diverse backgrounds, have different job titles, and perform a broad range of duties. Sustainability managers are responsible for devel¬oping and implementing an organization’s sustainability plans and presenting these plans to senior staff. They might also be responsible for ensuring that an organiza¬tion is in compliance with environmental, health, and safety regulations. Many sustainability managers rely on their public relations and communications skills to work with concerned citizens in local communities.

Chief executives include high-level positions, such as chief sustainability officer, environmental vice president, and director of corporate responsibility. These executives develop and direct sustainability strategies.

General and operations managers work to ensure that sustainability strategies are implemented in day-today operations and that any sustainability measures are in¬corporated into the production process.

Industrial production managers plan, direct, and coordi¬nate the  production activities required to produce a vast array of manufactured goods. These managers may also be responsible for improving the industrial production process and to find ways to reduce waste and improve efficiency, while remaining in budget.

Transportation, storage, and distribution managers are vital to finding ways to reduce waste and make move¬ment of goods more sustainable, because transportation, storage, and distribution are very energyintensive and require many resources.

Science Occupations

Scientists who work in sustainability devise techni¬cal solutions for reducing waste and cutting costs. They assist in the development of strategies to increase safety and to reduce the risk of illness and injury for a company’s employees. Many sustainability scientists also serve as consultants, working as technical experts at firms that specialize in providing sustainability services to com¬panies that do not have their own sustainability staff, or those who need specialized knowledge to implement sustainability strategies.

Occupations in scientific  research and development have become increasingly interdisciplinary, and as a result, it is common for biological scientists, chemists, materials scientists, and engineers to work together as part of a team.

Atmospheric scientists study the effects of air pollution and the effects of a company’s operations on the overall environment.

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical makeup of organisms. They may also study the effects of pollution on these organisms and determine ways to reduce the impact of pollution, as well as ways to reduce its effects.

Chemists and materials scientists develop new chemi¬cals or materials that have a lower environmental impact than materials used in current operations.

Conservation scientists manage the use and develop¬ment of natural resources. They advise landowners on the use and management of their land and may design and implement programs that make the land healthier and more productive. Some will work to conserve and restore public and private lands.

Environmental scientists use their knowledge of the nat¬ural sciences to protect the environment by identifying problems and finding solutions that minimize hazards to the health of the environment and the population.

Microbiologists study microscopic organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Many bacteria or other microscopic organisms can be used to clean up pollution, or using bacteria, yeast, or other microbes to develop new bio-fu¬els, the need to use fossil fuels can be reduced.

Natural sciences managers are both managers and lead scientists. They oversee the efforts of scientists working on sustainability issues. For example, if there are mul¬tiple scientists, such as a chemist, atmospheric scientist, and an environmental scientist working on a large proj¬ect, the science manager will oversee and coordinate the efforts of the other scientists.

Soil and plant scientists study local plants and the soil that supports them. They look for diseases or chemicals present in the plants and soil that results from pollutants and study ways to remove these pollutants and to prevent further pollution.

Engineering Occupations

Engineers who work in sustainability devise technical solutions for reducing waste and cutting costs. They also might be responsible for developing methods to increase safety and to reduce the risk of illness and injury for a company’s employees.

Chemical engineers work to minimize the environmental impact of chemicals used by a company in production processes. These engineers may focus on using renew¬able resources to produce chemicals that are not derived from fossil fuels, or on developing chemicals that are biodegradable and do not result in pollution of the envi-ronment.

Engineers who work in sustainability devise technical solutions for reducing waste and cutting costs. They also might be responsible for developing methods to increase safety and to reduce the risk of illness and injury for a company’s employees. Chemical engineers work to minimize the environmental impact of chemicals used by a company in production processes. These engineers may focus on using renew¬able resources to produce chemicals that are not derived from fossil fuels, or on developing chemicals that are biodegradable and do not result in pollution of the envi-ronment.

Civil engineers are involved  in green building and designing structures that will operate efficiently, reduce pollution, and decrease carbon output. They also design water supply and sewage treatment facilities.

Environmental engineers use the principles of biology and chemistry to develop solutions to environmental problems. They are involved in water and air pollution control, recycling, waste disposal, and public health is¬sues.  Health and safety engineers strive to prevent harm to people, property, and the environment by applying their knowledge of systems engineering and workplace health and safety factors. Using this specialized knowledge, they identify and measure potential hazards, such as the risk of fires and the dangers involved in handling toxic chemicals.

Other sustainability occupations In addition to managers,  scientists, and engineers, many other occupations are involved in the sustainability field. These include accountants and auditors, business opera¬tions specialists, and compliance officers.

Accountants and auditors measure the impacts of sus¬tainability programs. They determine the monetary sav¬ings and costs associated with these programs and may measure non-monetary aspects, such as environmental performance and the amount of waste reduction.

Business operations specialist is a broad category that includes recycling coordinators and energy auditors.

Recycling coordinators coordinate recycling programs for governments and private firms. Firms recycle many of the materials used in production and operations, such as excess packaging, office paper, used chemicals, and scrap metal. Energy auditors, also known as energy raters or energy consultants, help prevent energy waste by inspecting buildings to find areas of air leakage and advising customers on how to fix  and prevent leaks.

Compliance officers examine,  evaluate, and investigate eligibility for or conformity with laws and regulations. They ensure that organizations are in compliance with environmental, health, and safety regulations and may prepare reports or recommendations as to how a compa¬ny can comply with proposed regulations or meet higher standards than regulations require.

Cost estimators accurately forecast the cost, size, and duration of sustainability projects. They develop the cost information that business owners and managers need to decide on the profitability of sustainability projects.

Human resources specialists are responsible for the workforce needs of an organization. They may keep track of how workers are complying with sustainability practices. They may be responsible for producing train¬ing programs on corporate sustainability.

Logisticians analyze and coordinate an organization’s supply chain–the system that moves a product from sup¬plier to consumer. They find ways to reduce the amount of waste in the process of storing and transporting goods. Increased efficiency in these areas will reduce waste, emissions, and costs.

Occupational health and safety specialists and tech¬nicians help prevent harm to workers, property, the environment, and the general public. They may design safe work spaces, inspect machines, and test air qual¬ity. In addition, they may look for chemical, physical, radiological, and biological hazards. They communicate frequently with management about the status of health, safety, and environmental programs. Occupational health and safety specialists typically have more responsibil¬ity than technicians. Technicians may be responsible for small aspects of occupational safety and health, or they may assist specialists with their duties. potential to provide 2,500 jobs to rag pickers with an average earning of USD 75 per month.

Urban Land Use and Density Green Sector and Growth

With the rapid and steady growth of the urban population, the demand for land resource has increased as well. This is creating both horizontal and vertical pressure on all urban land uses. Considering that the Indian urban population is expected to increase up to 590 million by 2030, the per capita income is projected to grow four times and that land is a limited resource, the negative consequences of maintaining the current unsystematic approach could be tremendous for local environment and society: a Green Growth approach thus becomes imperative for urban planning.

Green Growth Visions

The two visions below present an ideal scenario of how the Urban Land Use and Density sector would appear in the future, had the city fulfilled or even exceeded all its development objectives. These visions, achieved either through a gradual, incremental process (efficient) or a more radical paradigm shift (transformative) become the ultimate Urban Land Use and Density ‘target’ that cities should aim for.

Efficient Green Growth Vision

A vibrant and livable city that has integrated land use with minimum conflict between green spaces and built up areas, to satisfy all the social needs of the community. Statutory Master Plans minimize urban sprawl and guide desirable peri-urban development. Enforcement agencies use existing underutilised or unused land and  promote transfer of development rights to retain traditional quarters and other conserved precincts. High density is encouraged through increase in floor space index in all areas with open land converted to community open spaces accessible for all. Organised agriculture is allowed as one of the urban functions to reduce land distortion from over predicted real estate demand, while involving communities in the planning process.

Transformative Green Growth Vision

A compact city with reduced travel time and optimal utilization of local resources, with land use allocated for various uses that is self-sufficient for future generations without demand for additional land resources. Transit oriented mixed land use approach is in place with reliable public transport to eliminate private vehicle dependency. The Master Plan is mandatorily revised every 3 years with all the maps available on a GIS platform. Heritage and ecologically fragile areas development is regulated by clear guidelines, low rise development along transit corridors is discouraged and urban sprawl is reduced. Clear development guidelines exist and the private sector is actively engaged to help implement development in line with the Master Plan. The city has urban green spaces and forests to protect local biodiversity and a green economy policy that guides the city’s economy.

Options and Opportunities

By recognising planning and development control regulations as key requisites for a sustainable future and keeping in view the  consequences of unplanned development, the High Powered Expert Committee and the McKinsey Global Institute have recommended several initiatives to be taken up for effective land use planning, such as upgrading planning technology (GIS maps and economic projections, transportation, and affordable housing, etc.) and preparation of effective 20 year Master Plans with integrated content; the Government of India is currently addressing this.

  • Few metropolitan cities such  as Delhi and Bangalore are in the process of developing their transit oriented policies and plans for the city to promote mixed land use and increase densification in the cities. The URDPFI guidelines, currently being revised, recommend the same approach; other cities should learn from these examples.
  • Emphasis should be increased on local development regulations and densification of land uses through ongoing efforts on Transit oriented development.
  • Cities can utilize central government funding for the preparation of plans and the prioritization of long term infrastructure improvement; e.g. the Ministry of Urban Development provides funds under the National Urban Information Systems program to develop Master Plans on a GIS platform.
  • Application of GIS in Master Planning processes can be used to record plot by plot data on land use, transportation, storm water system and solid waste management etc.
  • The Union government’s announcement of 100 Smart Cities programme can be tapped as an opportunity for all cities to leverage innovative approaches for industrial development.


Evaluating the current and future trends of the Urban Land Use and Density sector led to the identification of barriers that already are or could in the future hinder or even prevent cities from seizing the opportunities aforesaid, thus precluding a transition to Green Growth. These barriers are:

  • Limited technical capacities of local agencies that prevent Transferable Development Rights, PPPs and town planning schemes from being properly utilized as land management practices.
  • Lack of monitoring of Master Plan violations, non-coordination of an excessive number of agencies involved, political interference etc.
  • Non-functioning of Metropolitan Planning Committees and District Planning Committees, which have a major decision making role as per the 74th constitutional amendment. The non-implementation of the act is one of the major barriers for cities to take coordinated decisions for longer term development.

Policy recommendations: pathways to a sustainable future

Turning the vision of a sustainable economy and the green jobs that it would provide into a reality will require a strong, coherent and stable policy framework and government leadership. According to an ILO report that finds many encouraging trends and examples  but green economies and jobs are by no means a foregone conclusion.  There is a need to speed up the attainment of gains in energy efficiency and in the share of sustainable source of energy.

It is clearly essential to correct market failures and to ensure that prices are right, in particular that of carbon, but also that of other externalised environmental and social costs. Market signals and the parameters for investments need to be clear and stable. This imperative notwithstanding, purely market-driven processes will not deliver at the scale and the speed required.

The report finds that markets have thrived and transformation has advanced most where there has been strong and consistent political support. Policies designed to ensure effective support for and to drive the private sector include targets, penalties and incentives such as feed-in laws and efficiency standards for buildings and appliances, as well as proactive research and development. Stable political resolve will depend on a transformation that is equitable between and within countries, where benefits are shared broadly and fairly and where those losing out in the transformation are supported in finding alternative, more sustainable livelihoods.

Way Ahead

India is at a crucial cusp of breaking into the path to the ‘being a developed’ country. The journey to this path is not going to be smooth as the rapid growth brings in its own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is to maintain the environment according to international commitments, bringing down  the fossil fuel based consumption and substantially increasing the non-conventional (green) energy consumption. Though India is a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), it is not required to contain its GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. India’s policies for sustainable development, by way of promotion of energy efficiency, renewable energy, changing the fuel mix to cleaner sources, energy pricing, pollution abatement, a forestation, mass transport, besides differentially higher growth rates of less energy intensive services sectors as compared to manufacturing, results in a relatively GHG benign growth path. This would mean creation of millions of ‘Green Jobs’ in the coming 10 to 15 years.

Yet, it is India’s green overhaul that is getting global economies interested. Businesses in the EU are being attracted by India’s attention to green growth and expansion of environment friendly industries. There is already a European Business and Technology Centre (EBTC) that has been established in India to facilitate trade between India and Europe. India was one of the few countries who managed to largely stave off the recession by wisely boosting domestic consumption and guaranteeing jobs. Now, it might well be on its way to leveraging the clean environment effort into an employment boon. Government mandates to encourage wind energy and solar energy have allowed talent growth in pure green businesses. This has helped emerging segments in the green sector draw talent from related sectors, as professionals in the latter upgrade and adapt to new businesses.

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