600,000 jobs at risk from government inaction on reaching net zero

The TUC has warned that up to 660,000 jobs could be at risk if the UK fails to transition to net zero as fast as other nations.

The analysis identifies jobs that, unless government acts now, could be moved offshore to countries that offer superior green infrastructure and greater support for decarbonising industry.

Published just two months before the UK hosts the United Nations Climate Conference, the jobs at risk identified by the analysis include:

  • 259,700 jobs at direct risk in manufacturing sectors
  • 407,100 supply chain jobs at secondary risk across the UK economy

The TUC warns that workers and their families in the UK’s industrial heartlands are particularly at risk.

A breakdown of the analysis shows that the regions with the most direct jobs at risk are North West (39,100), Yorkshire and the Humber (36,900) and West Midlands (31,300). The region with the least direct jobs at risk is London (8,100).

The analysis is based on data from the ONS and Catapult Energy Systems, which is funded by government through Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.

Risk by manufacturing sector

The TUC estimates that in industry across Britain the number of jobs at direct risk from offshoring could be as high as 260,000. Broken down by sector, this includes:

  • 26,900 jobs in iron and steel
  • 41,000 jobs in glass and ceramics
  • 63,200 jobs in chemicals
  • 18,000 jobs in textiles
  • 79,000 jobs in rubber and plastics
  • 15,500 jobs in paper, pulp and printing
  • 7,800 jobs in refineries
  • 7,400 jobs in wood products
  • 900 jobs in cement and lime

Jobs at risk in supply chains

The union body says that in addition to factory and plant jobs being under threat from offshoring, many more are at risk in UK supply chains.

The TUC estimates that up to 407,000 jobs in Britain’s supply chains could be affected if the government fails to speed up the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

These include jobs in construction, producing and maintaining industrial machinery, transport, and trade. And it brings the total number of jobs at risk to 660,000.

Falling behind other countries

Research published by the TUC in June found that the UK is second last among G7 economies for its investment in green infrastructure and jobs.

While the UK Treasury is barely investing £180 per person on green recovery and jobs over the next decade, President Biden plans to allocate over £2,960 per person on green recovery, jobs and programmes like public transport, electric vehicles and energy efficiency retrofits.

Scaled by population, the UK’s green recovery investment is just a quarter (24%) of France, a fifth (21%) of Canada, and 6% of the USA.

Action needed to save jobs

The TUC is calling on the government to action the recommendations of the Green Jobs Taskforce in full, and for an £85 billion green recovery package to create 1.24 million green jobs.

In addition, the TUC has repeated its calls for a permanent short-time working scheme to help protect working people through periods of future industrial change.

It would make a crucial difference by acting as a bridge for workers in jobs and industries under threat from offshoring during the global transition to net zero.

The union body says such a scheme would give UK workers similar protection to workers in 23 OECD countries that already have this type of scheme, including Germany, Japan and many US states. And it would produce significant savings on redundancy, training and hiring costs, and enable firms to keep skilled staff on their books.

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