In a market economy, jobs (dependent employment) is essential for the sustenance and wellbeing of the vast majority of the population. Employment offers a stream of income to individual workers and their families, and in aggregation is essential for vibrant local, national and regional economies (disposable income translates into purchases of good and services that underpin market demand. Creating jobs and achieving a close match between job supply and demand is essential for the smooth functioning of a market economy.
However, in addition to the quantity of jobs, quality is also of great importance. This dimension finds expression in several ways. Jobs that require more extensive or refined skills and can attract higher salaries have a higher multiplier value in the economy. Simply put, greater disposable income translates into greater demand. In addition, the quality of the workplace finds expression in a variety of ways, including working hours, relations between employers/managers and employees (and their representatives), work-life balance, job security and career trajectory, gender balance, etc. Jobs are increasingly understood to provide not just economic sustenance but meaning and satisfaction to people’s lives.
The desire for high-quality employment finds expression in terms such as good jobs or decent jobs, with varying definitions. Platform partner ILO has developed a definition reflecting the ongoing social dialogue among the organisation’s core constituents (governments, employers, and labour representatives). According to the ILO,
Decent work sums up the aspirations of people in their working lives. It involves opportunities for work that is productive and delivers a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.
Decent work is closely bound up with the achievement of SDG 8 which calls for the promotion of sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work. Key aspects of the decent work agenda are also embedded in the targets of many other SDGs.
In the context of the energy transformation, decent jobs play an essential role. As mentioned, well-remunerated jobs are better able to support a vibrant economy by dint of creating greater demand for goods and services and generating or maintaining virtuous circles. In addition, decent jobs typically imply that individuals are better trained, are staying in their jobs longer and are thus accumulating critical experience and knowledge, with the overall result of greater work satisfaction.
Such circumstances raise the likelihood that the work carried out in the different segments of the renewable energy value chain will be of higher quality — well-crafted solar panels and wind turbines, careful construction and installation, and well-maintained generation facilities. All of this means that projects will function more smoothly and reliably, able to match nameplate capacity actual output closely. The societal acceptance of renewable energy gets a boost. In essence, skilled, experienced and satisfied workers are essential to a successful energy transformation.