Chicago Green Jobs

Race, Gender, Jobs: Green Jobs For Who, Exactly?
March 3, 2009, 4:11 am
Filed under: Green Job Research




Percent chances of snow in DC over the next few days? Nope – it’s the percentage of electrical power line installers, engineering technicians, and industrial mechanics in highly green industries who are men according to Green Jobs: A Pathway to a Strong Middle Class. That pattern holds true throughout all the titles listed in the report – the job with lowest percentage of men was miscellaneous assemblers and fabricators, which clocked in at 63.3%. The overwhelming majority of the men holding these jobs are also white – not a single title drops below the 75% white mark, and most are up in the 80’s.

Given that the same report states that one of the characteristics of a green job is that it “should be available to diverse workers from across the spectrum of race, gender, and ethnicity” what are we to make of this pattern?

Because most green collar jobs will be blue collar jobs in a green industry, we can expect to see big extant labor pools for these new jobs. White men currently dominate that labor pool (black people are under-represented in manufacturing, construction, and mining, for example), so we can anticipate that white men will be well positioned to suck up green jobs. In other words, an expanding green economy is not necessarily linked to creating new job opportunities for women and minorities.

Building new “pathways out of poverty,” the stated mission of the Green Jobs Act, requires much more than a shiny new industry. Consider this: if you are a factory owner and you have the choice between a guy with 15 years experience welding and a girl who was just certified as a green welder, who are you going to pick? Figuring out how to pull people out of poverty is a complex problem that dedicated people have been trying to solve for decades. A powerful new industry can’t hurt, but it’s not the magic bullet.


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