Green Jobs: Labour market skills up for the transition to a sustainable economy

With India establishing ambitious targets for combating climate chan­ge, there is need for a streamlined mechanism for creating jobs with the goal of gradually transitioning to a greener eco­nomy. The union budget presented in February 2022 highlighted the importance of not only ensuring green growth in the economy but also generating green jobs. Going green and creating environment-friendly value systems across different sectors require a trained workforce. A “green job” helps in the transition to environmentally sustainable modes of production and consumption. The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines green a green job as one that contribute to preserving or restoring the environment. They can be in traditional sectors such as manufacturing and construction, emerging green sectors such as renewable energy and energy efficiency, or in services such as auditing and rating of green activities.

India was one of the first countries in the Asia-Pacific region to work with the ILO on the Green Jobs Initiative. This collaboration was made possible by the Multi-Stakeholder Task Force on Climate Chan­ge and Green Jobs, which was presided over by the Ministry of Labour and Emp­loyment. The task force helped in promoting policy coordination, improving understanding of the employment and labour market implications of a greener economy, and guided the ILO’s programme work in India. The main agenda of ILO’s Green Jobs Initiative are as follows. One, improving the energy and raw materials efficiency. Two, limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Three, minimising waste and pollution. Four, protecting and restoring ecosystems. Five, supporting adaptation to the effects of climate change.

By switching from fossil fuel-based energy to renewable energy, businesses can improve their profitability. However, this tra­nsition requires some investment cos­ts. Small businesses, in particular, struggle to find the necessary resources and te­chnical support for such transition. Des­pite these hurdles for businesses, the gr­een job market has been flourishing. Acc­ording to De­loi­tte’s report, “Transfor­ming Your Organi­sa­­tion for the Green Econo­my”, job sear­ches for green skills have been increasing in double digits. It has been observed that sustainability professionals are increasingly having an impact on business model decisions.

A report by the Council on Energy, En­vi­ronment and Water (CEEW), “India’s Ex­panding Clean Energy Workforce: Oppor­tunities in the Solar and Wind Energy Sectors, published in 2022, offers several key insights into India’s green employment potential. First, to reach the country’s goal of attaining 500 GW of non-fossil electricity generation capacity by 2030, India could install 238 GW of solar and 101 GW of new wind capacity. This can further help create 3.4 million jobs both for the short and long terms. Second, the renewable energy industry was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. This is evident by the fact that there were 48 per cent fewer jobs in 2021 than in 2019. Also, during 2021, only 6,400 new jobs were added against 12,400 in 2019. Third, the report noted that more than 78,000 trainees were certified through the national-level solar energy Suryamitra training programme bet­ween 2015 and July 2021. It highlights the significance of rural skill development programmes. To gain access to green jobs, features such as providing access to un­dereducated youth, ensuring women’s inclusion, and connecting trainees to job platforms must be incorporated into training programmes and provided through industrial training institutions.

Role of the Skill Council for Green Jobs

Going forward, workers will need the skills to capitalise on the shift towards greener jobs with environmental sustainability be-co­ming the norm throughout global eco­nomies. Green skills adoption, combined with an environmentally sustainable workforce culture, will inspire new business mo­­dels and strategies that will benefit peo­ple and the planet. In lieu of upskilling workers, the government has launched the Skill Co­uncil for Green Jobs (SCGJ) that is aligned with the National Skill Deve­lop­ment Mis­sion. It is supported by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The SCGJ is an autono­mo­us body and a registered society established by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to supplement the Skill India Mission in the areas of renewable energy, sustainable development and waste management. The key sectors covered by the SCGJ for skill development are as follows. First, renewable power and fuels such as solar wind, hydro, energy storage, biomass power, biofuels and biogas. Second, environment, forests and climate change including solid wa­ste management, water management, e-wa­ste management and clean cook stoves. Third, sustainable cities and transport that includes green construction and green transportation.

The SCGJ helps in the formulation of job roles that correspond to occupations de­fined in the International Standards Cla­ssification of Occupations (ISCO-08) and the National Classification of Occu­pations (NCO-2015). Apart from under­taking a skill gap analysis in the labour market, its primary task involves developing National Occupational Stand­ards, and training and certifying skilled manpower in its domain.

Also, the SCGJ is actively focusing on the recognition of prior learning (RPL) in linked industry and entrepreneurship development that will specifically support growth in rural entrepreneurship for sustainable development. Thus, RPL is a critical tool for mapping existing skills in the unorganised sector and integrating the informal sector into the formal skilling landscape. The RPL framework is an outcome-based qualification framework linked to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF) that wo­uld assess and certify prior learning obtain­ed through formal or informal channels. The RPL process would include a pre-assessment, skills gap training, and a final assessment that would result in the certification of existing skills at the individual’s level, helping the labour force ready for the green transition in the job market.

Role of women in the green job market

The transition to a green economy is considered a “change enabler” for achieving sustainability goals. However, if such a change is not equitable, the battle will be only half-won. Women’s presence in the renewable energy sector is currently primarily limited to administrative roles. Acc­ording to the International Energy Agency, women are under-represented in operational and field-based roles due to concerns about the safety of project locations and inherent prejudices about women’s ability to perform such roles. Even at the decision-making level, women’s participation lags behind that of men. As a result, despite the numerous opportunities for women to be involved in the renewable en­ergy sector, they remain marginalised.

Thus, with the ongoing wave of green jobs in India, it can help improve women’s livelihood prospects and boost the sector’s gr­owth by providing expertise in various do­ma­ins. The women workforce can play an increasingly important role in meeting In­dia’s clean energy goals with targeted training and skill development.


Greening of enterprises, workplace practices and the labour market as a whole can be achieved by engaging governments and employers as active agents of change. These efforts create employment opportunities, enhance resource efficiency and build low-carbon sustainable societies. It is important to work on scaling up decentralised renewables such as rooftop solar, mini grids and microgrids, and biogas as they have more direct employment potential. Also, it is important to ensure continuous deployment of renewable energy ca­pacities to restrain job loss.

It is necessary to strengthen the domestic manufacturing of various technology components within India such as solar cells, modules and batteries. This will help in not only import substitution but also in the generation of indirect employment opportunities in these allied sectors. Also, it will be important to proactively update the skilling curriculum regularly as per the ongoing industry demand, especially from new sectors such as batteries and green hydrogen. Creating well-designed skilling and reskilling programmes for vulnerable communities, advocating for inclusive policies, and providing women and other underserved groups with the financial and social infrastructure required to access MSME jobs will increase their participation in the sector.

Going forward, it will be critical to remember that a fair and just transition is needed to achieve our climate goals and developing green jobs.

By Nikita Choubey