Circular Economy - Labour



Northern Ontario Circular Economy Symposium: Labour Scenarios for the Future

January 26, 2021 | Ana Belén Sánchez

On January 19, 2021 speakers from Canada and abroad came together to speak about current and future opportunities of a circular economy in Northern Ontario. A circular economy refers to a system that reduces waste by reusing material in the creation of new products.

Ana Belén Sánchez, who is a Green Jobs Specialist at the United Nations International Labour Organization discussed the circular economy in the context of labour. From her presentation, several key considerations arose:

  • Green jobs are not only decent jobs, but they involve safe working conditions, social protections, respect of social dialogue and workers’ rights, and that these jobs are created in all sectors of the economy.
  • Climate change and related policies will impact jobs and productivity so industry adaption is needed. What that means is that green economy and circular economy measures will involve changing methods of production across sectors. This is very important for some sectors such as mining, manufacturing, energy, transport, agriculture.
  • The ILO created a scenario where there was an annual five percent increase in the circular economy (e.g. five per cent more plastics, glass, wood pulp, metals, and minerals recycled, and those new recycling materials will replace the direct extraction of primary resources). Based on this scenario, there were significant job impacts. While 78 million jobs would be created, there is a risk of 71 million jobs being destroyed. 49 million of the 71 million could be reallocated through rescaling programs for similar jobs. As well, 21 of the 71 million jobs will be destroyed if training for new positions in new sectors is not provided.
  • When comparing job change by sex, there are more males right now working in sectors related to the circular economy than females. This inequality will continue without policies to address that.
  • While these changes are happening, there is a critical need to ensure that workers are experiencing a just transition. Alongside making sure that workers are experiencing beneficial changes, we need to measure the impacts as well.
  • Social consensus among various actors is key.


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