Chicago Green Jobs

Green Jobs For Some!
March 2, 2009, 12:02 am
Filed under: Green Job Research

We’ve got some new research on the green jobs sector, this time from Obama’s Task Force on the Middle Class. The report, Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class, is the very first of the task force, and it attempts to explain what green jobs are and why they will benefit the middle class.

This is a good thing, because despite the epic buzz around the idea of green jobs there isn’t an accepted definition of just what exactly a green job IS. And since we’re funneling billions of dollars into growing green jobs, it behooves us to agree on some metrics for success.

The report outlines three characteristics of a green job:

  1. Involves some task associated with improving the environment
  2. Provides a sustainable family wage, health and retirement benefits, and good working conditions
  3. Available to a diverse workforce across gender, race, and ethnicity

Appealing? Yes! Rigorous? No!  Fortunately, we get some job titles and some wage information in the next section of the report: an anlysis by the Council of Economic Advisers of workers in representative occupations and industries within the green sector. More on these job titles  – and just who works in them (hint: rhymes with might hen) after the jump.

But first, here’s a quick breakdown of the methodology: the CEA created a list of highly green occupations, and compared the average wages in 2007 of those workers in all industries against those workers in highly green industries ( in this case, turbine manufacturing and electric power generating).

There is a caveat from the CEA: There is no failsafe way to tell if the people in the designated green jobs are actually working on projects that are associates with protecting the environment. For example, the report can tell us how many people are working on building and maintaining power grids, but it can’t tell us if those people are working on building a new smart grid.

So what do have? The titles are resoundingly blue-collar: Electrical Power Line Installers and Repairers. Industrial Mechanic. Electrician. Machinist. Welding/Soldering/Brazing Workers. Assemblers and Fabricators. (For a full list, see page 6 of the report).

The wage comparisons show that a worker in a green industry earns a 10-20% premium on his wages compared to the same worker in another industry. And I use the word “his” advisedly – the gender breakdown on the table on page 32 of the report tell an important story: the overwhelming majority of current green jobs (in the green energy sector, at least) are held by white men.

What does this mean for a movement based on the hope that green jobs can provide a “pathway out of poverty” for ALL Americans? More on that tomorrow.


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[…] to the training. In other words, land rehabilitation has real potential to be a green job in the Biden Task Force sense of the […]

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