Global energy employment rises above pre-Covid levels, says IEA

Global energy employment rises above pre-Covid levels, says IEA
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KUALA LUMPUR (Sept 9): Global employment in the energy sector has risen above its pre-pandemic levels, led by increased hiring in clean energy, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

In its World Energy Employment Report released on Thursday (Sept 8), the agency said the global workforce in the energy sector had increased to around 65 million people, or 2% of the total labour force, with clean energy jobs driving the growth.

It said at the same time, the oil and gas sector, which saw some of the largest declines in employment at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, had yet to fully recover. 

The agency said that with the recent rebound, clean energy surpassed the 50% mark for its share of total energy employment, with nearly two-thirds of workers involved in building new projects and manufacturing clean energy technologies.

It said at the same time, the oil and gas sector is also experiencing an upswing in employment, with new projects under development, notably new liquefied natural gas infrastructure.

The IEA said the energy sector is set to see its fastest employment growth in recent years in 2022, but high input costs and inflationary pressures are adding to hiring and supply chain challenges already present in some regions and sub-sectors, such as solar, wind, oil and gas.

It said policy responses to the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including the US Inflation Reduction Act, will continue to add to new hiring demand and to shifting the status quo of global energy supply chains.

The IEA said energy jobs counted in this report span the value chain, with around a third of workers in energy fuel supply (coal, oil, gas and bioenergy), a third in the power sector (generation, transmission, distribution and storage), and a third in key energy end uses (vehicle manufacturing and energy efficiency).

It said more than half of energy employment is in the Asia-Pacific region.

This reflects rapidly expanding energy infrastructure in the region and access to lower-cost labour that has enabled the emergence of manufacturing hubs that serve both local and export markets, notably for solar, electric vehicles and batteries. China alone accounts for 30% of the global energy workforce.

In all IEA scenarios, clean energy employment is set to grow, outweighing declines in fossil fuel jobs.

In the scenario of net zero emissions by 2050, 14 million new clean energy jobs would be created by 2030, with another 16 million workers switching to new roles related to clean energy.

New energy jobs may not always be in the same location nor require the same skills as the jobs they replace, requiring policymakers to focus on job training and capacity building to ensure that energy transitions benefit as many people as possible.

IEA executive director Dr Fatih Birol said countries around the world are responding to the current crisis by seeking to accelerate the growth of home-grown clean energy industries.

He said the regions that make this move will see huge growth in jobs.

“Seizing this opportunity requires skilled workers.

“Governments, companies, labour representatives and educators must come together to develop the programmes and accreditations needed to cultivate this workforce, and ensure the jobs created are quality jobs that can attract a diverse workforce,” he said.

The IEA said around 45% of the world’s energy workers are in high-skilled occupations, compared with about 25% for the wider economy.

It said some fossil fuel companies are retraining workers internally for positions in low-carbon areas to retain talent or to maintain flexibility as needs arise.