Green transition: employment opportunities and challenges for persons with disabilities

Employment opportunities

The shift to green economy is expected to radically transform the labour market. Broadly speaking, the green transition will heavily impact energy intensive industries such as mining, steel, automotive and chemicals, but it will also lead to new energy efficiency initiatives and the creation of new jobs. According to the Employment and Social Developments in Europe report published by the European Commission, the green transition is expected to create 1 million jobs in the EU by 2030 and 2 million jobs by 2050. However, some fast-growing sectors that are crucial for the transition, such as those related to insulation and renewables, are already experiencing shortages of workers. 

These radical changes will require people to move from some sectors to others, and therefore to acquire completely new skills or improve existing ones in order to adapt to the new labour conditions. Ensuring that all of them have access to concrete opportunities to upskill and reskill properly will be a major challenge for the EU. In addition to that, the need to develop new energy-efficient production technologies will give a strong boost to technological innovation, making digital skills a key factor in the labour market. In this regard, the EU will have to provide workers from different economic sectors the chance to learn digital skills through proper training programmes. 

Persons with disabilities and vulnerable groups have the potential to personally contribute to building a greener society. The green transition can benefit them as well, especially when it comes to employment opportunities in the emerging labour market. Examples of sectors where people with disabilities can find green jobs include: 

  • Eco-construction 
  • Energy efficiency 
  • Waste disposal and recycling 
  • Conservation of landscape and green areas 
  • Ecotourism 
  • Social Farming 

Main challenges

Whilst opportunities are there, social services providers supporting employment of people with disabilities will face the following challenges: 

Education and training. People with disabilities might struggle to find new jobs more than others, as they often have less education and training opportunities. Furthermore, most VET for persons with disabilities still don’t include information on sustainability, green best practices or skills that are highly needed in emerging labour market areas such as sustainable tourism or renewable energy. 

Exclusion from the labour market. People with disabilities are at a higher risk of marginalisation in the labour market. Social services providers must raise awareness about the importance of offering disability-inclusive green jobs which match with candidates or trainees with disabilities. 

Social exclusion. Social services providers face the challenge to make sure that the needs of people with disabilities are mainstreamed and recognised by EU policies and initiatives. If this doesn’t happen, a “disorderly transition” which doesn’t take into due consideration the needs of all groups might further exacerbate exclusion from the labour market and widen the gap between high educated-high income and low educated-low income groups.

Staff training and underfunding. Social workers are unable to provide adequate support to people with disabilities if they lack the skills and knowledge about sustainability and green practices. Ensuring that social services providers get the right training is a major challenge due to underfunding and lack of investment in the sector, despite the recognition that it will play a key role to implement a just transition.