South Africa Lacks the Research Needed to Support the Growth of Green Jobs

South Africa Lacks the Research Needed to Support the Growth of Green Jobs

South Africa does not report green jobs independently in any of its major surveys or statistics of employment, nor does it report the growth of green industries. There is not an official agreed definition of green jobs, either. However, there have been significant efforts from different organizations to measure the role of the green economy and the number of green jobs in South Africa.

Research conducted on green jobs in South Africa estimates that the employment potential in the formal sector of the green economy is approximately 98,000 new direct jobs in the short term (2011-2012), almost 255,000 in the medium term (2013-2017) and around 462,000 employment opportunities or part-time jobs in the long term (2018-2025) in sectors like energy generation, energy and resource efficiency, emission and pollution mitigation, and natural resource management. In the long term, almost 50% of this job creation potential stems from natural resource management – activities associated with biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration, as well as soil and land management.

Some progress has been made in providing green jobs and employment in South Africa, particularly the government-led Expanded Public Work Programme (EPWP) which creates temporary and/or part-time opportunities for unemployed and poor households as a labour absorption and income transfer strategy. Approximately 13% of all work opportunities created by the EPWP are within the environmental sector, through programmes which centre on ecosystem restoration, maintenance, and rehabilitation such as Working for Water, Working on Waste, and Working for Forests. Regardless of the role of the EPWP programme in the transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient and just society, major challenges remain. Green jobs are often far from being decent, as the EPWP pays low wages and does not offer job security and reasonable career prospects.

The mandate for a Green Economy in South Africa derives from the country’s constitution, which enshrines sustainable development in the Bill of Rights. The South African government together with social partners signed and adopted the Green Economy Accord in 2011. Recapping the 2009 New Growth Path, which identified green activities as a key employment driver, the Accord targeted the creation of 300,000 additional direct jobs by 2020 in green economy sectors, including 80,000 in manufacturing. Furthermore, the new development policy, aims at the creation of 5 million new Jobs by 2020. The strategy lays out the vision to achieve a more developed, democratic, cohesive and equitable economy and society over the medium term, in the context of sustained growth and the generation of more inclusive and greener economy over the medium to long run. However, the Green Economy Accord has not helped to bring changes in areas which were needed.

South Africa’s National Development Plan, approved in 2012, is the most advanced vision in the country, providing an overarching perspective on the future of the nation. However, the existing policy framework falls short of integrating the sustainability transition in its vision, connecting the various elements of sustainable development, and addressing the inevitable trade-offs. 

Activity Rating: ** Standing Still

South Africa has several policies and strategies in place for the green economy, and has implemented some successful policy programmes. However, coherence in the overarching policy framework is lacking. There is a limited research on data on green jobs sectors in South Africa. Extensive research is required and social partners have to play a role in formulating this research agenda.

Take Action

Alert Message:

Dear Honourable Minister Ms Barbara Creecy,

It is noted that there are several strategies and policies that support the green economy in South Africa. However, coherence in the overarching policy framework is lacking. Green jobs need to be decent work that offer adequate wages, safe working conditions, job security, reasonable career prospects and worker rights. People’s livelihoods and sense of dignity are bound up tightly with their jobs.

With the exceptional level of unemployment that the country is experiencing and the high level of carbon impact of the economy, transitioning to a low carbon and sustainable economy can create large numbers of green jobs across many sectors of the economy, and indeed can become an engine of development.

We recommend that a sustainable development policy framework include addressing the issue of green jobs, and that it be updated periodically and implemented consistently. Much more research on green jobs sectors also is required. Green jobs must be decent work that have job security and give adequate wages.

Send message to Director External Communication: Mr Peter Mbelengwa

Telephone: +27 12 399 8842


Address: Environment House, 473 Steve Biko, Arcadia, Pretoria, 0083

Learn more

For a more comprehensive overview of Green Jobs and related policy frameworks in South Africa,

See a report of the Green Economy Barometer 2018 in South Africa,

This Post was submitted by South Africa Climate Scorecard Country Manager Tabana Mailula


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