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Decent work

As important as it is to shed light on the quantity of jobs created in renewable energy, job quality must be examined as well. Although detailed information remains quite limited, job quality is a critical aspect. A well-paying job that requires well-honed skills and is performed in a safe, rewarding workplace is a greater multiplier of socio-economic benefits than one that pays little, carries few benefits, or is temporary. Employment also needs to be inclusive, providing opportunities for people with different talents and skills, and ensuring that no population group, such as women, is systematically excluded.

What makes for good jobs? The International Labour Organization (ILO, n.d.) defines “decent work” as 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”.

As is true for the economy at large, job quality in renewable energy varies widely across the industries and companies that make up the sector and its diverse supply chain. Variations in required skills and occupational patterns explain some of this. But company policies and workplace practices are other important factors. Also, the significant role of the agricultural supply chain gives bioenergy a very different profile from the solar, wind, hydropower, and geothermal industries.

With respect to issues like wage levels and workplace protections, national regulations can make a big difference, as can corporate management culture and the presence of labour representatives. A friendly workplace tends to minimise staff turnover rates and is more likely to yield high-quality performance in equipment manufacturing, construction and installation, and operations and maintenance.