The creation of ‘green jobs’ through the employment of national policies was on the agenda this week, when Minister of Labour, Senator Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo addressed the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) General Conference in Geneva, Switzerland.

Observing that the move towards such jobs would address multiple national issues, the Labour Minister stated that “Though we have tried to control our unemployment rate over the last 5 years through a strong tripartite dialogue process, we have seen a steady rise in joblessness, now at unacceptably high levels. So we have embarked on our Human Resource Development Strategy and developed our National Employment Policy, focusing on education and training in both traditional and green projects to provide jobs, develop our economy and protect our vulnerable environment.”

The Labour Minister noted that, in the face of increasing challenges relevant to the environment, including climate change, pollution of oceans and availability of fossil fuels, a practical solution would be the creation of green jobs, to engage the workforce in the attainment of environmental sustainability.

“Whilst acknowledging the turbulence of the economic environment in which we reside, I believe that we must be willing to make a substantial investment in the developing of the relevant skills-sets if any commitment to the development of a green economy is to go beyond lofty pledges and promises.

“Naturally, persons equipped with such skills-sets can contribute to the further development of a variety of green sectors, which in turn, can help to foster a climate of sustainable economic development,” Minister Byer Suckoo said, explaining that this would be facilitated through sectors such as wind and wave energy generation, green building construction and eco tourism were important.

Acknowledging that the creation of a green jobs sector would not be simple, the Senator stated that planning would be essential to realise this goal.

“…the economic and developmental planners in our respective countries would be expected to liaise with “green” employers and other environmental experts, not only to formulate relevant policies at the national level, but to determine which green sectors have the potential to generate the highest returns on investment.  Once these sectors have been identified, an assessment would be made as to the skills sets that would be necessary to assist in their further development,” she underlined.

The next step, she said, would be to dialogue with tertiary education institutions to ascertain whether they have the capacity to train sufficient persons with the requisite skills. Where training gaps were identified, Dr. Byer Suckoo said, resources would be dedicated to filling the void.

“If such detailed activities can be implemented, I am confident that several benefits can be accrued from our investing in structured, long-term environmental programmes.  These benefits include: the facilitation of new areas of economic activity and jobs; financial savings from the purchase of less fossil fuels; and the protection of our natural resources,” she remarked.

Recalling the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) which was held in Barbados in 1994, Dr. Byer Suckoo noted that it was this event which offered sustainable development as the answer to the challenges being experienced by SIDS.  This led to the adoption of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and, she said, “20 years later, the point must be emphasised: the creation of a green economy and green jobs must be seen and treated as crucial to sustainable development, especially for SIDS.

“Education and training in green sectors must be given priority within our National Development Plans and adequate funds allocated within our budgets, to ensure that the green economy makes the maximum contribution possible towards the development of our countries,” she stressed.

The conference, which serves as a forum for the crafting and adoption of international labour standards in the form of Conventions and Recommendations and also supervises the application of these at the national level, will end June 20.

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