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Alan Simpson: If you think you have a green job then the ONS would like to know

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If you’re on a night shift then you’ve probably got up way too early, while if you’re on an early then you’ve already slept in and are late.

Some jobs, admittedly, are hard to define, such as a GP receptionist whose job does not include answering the phone as you might expect, judging by my recent experience trying to get an appointment.

Teachers are easier to define as, well, the clue is in the job title really, despite them being constantly on strike for the past few months.

Being a train driver is also hard to mistake and if one does then a whole load of passengers may be in for a bit of a surprise.


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There are many other jobs that need a second or even third explanation and even then you are none the wiser – even if you Google it on the sly.

But now the Scottish Government is attempting to define what has been a quite controversial topic in recent years – what exactly constitutes a green job.

Ministers have long set targets for the creation of green jobs to match the proliferation of renewable energy capacity.

Cynics say there are about 10 green jobs in Scotland, while environmentalists insists it’s about 1.2 million.

The truth, as ever, is somewhere in between, but exactly what is the figure: how many green jobs have actually been created in Scotland?

The simple answer is that nobody really actually knows, which is why the Scottish Government is now working with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in the search for an agreed definition of what exactly a “green job” is.

Minister Richard Lochhead stressed the importance of having an up-to-date definition of the term as he answered questions in Holyrood.

There is currently no single definition of a green job, with different agencies using different parameters, which means the door is open to half-truths and even wild exaggerations about the issue.

A year ago, Green MSP and minister Lorna Slater said the Scottish Government wanted to establish a wider definition of a green job which went beyond the ONS estimates of people working in the low-carbon and renewable energy sector.

Green MSP Maggie Chapman raised the issue again in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

Mr Lochhead, who is the Just Transition Minister, said: “There are several different definitions of green jobs at the moment, not just in this country but throughout the UK and Europe and the rest of the world.

“At UK level, the Scottish Government has been engaging with the Office for National Statistics, who are currently reviewing their definition, because the current definition is out of date.

“With the efforts towards net zero and all the new jobs being created, it’s really important we have an up-to-date definition of green jobs.”

Some people may argue that it’s not important at all but in many ways it is and it is right that moves are afoot to simplify the definition.


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After all, how can we be sure that the transition to renewables has been a success in employment terms if the statistics are wildly inaccurate?

According to industry body Scottish Renewables there are more than 27,000 people currently working in green jobs.

This is a fairly impressive number but falls well short of ministerial predictions that more than 77,000 could be working in green energy by 2050.

The green job figures are also inflated by ScottishPower’s entire 5,500 workforce being included when it became 100% in renewable generation.

Of course, some people will scoff at this as massaging the figures, but these are the sort of people that still think renewable energy is just a modern fad that will never take off.

Spoiler alert – it’s not and it already has. And a very good thing it is, too.

Green jobs will, however, always be very hard to pin down as an exact science.

Most people’s perception of what a green job actually is would be broadly similar in that it would somebody that works in the renewable energy industry.


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It’s a fair assumption but perhaps not strictly correct as it misses out thousands of jobs that generate no carbon emissions.

For example, is the driver of an electric train or bus a green job, while diesel ones are not? Is a greenkeeper one and is the person who cuts the lawn courts at the All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon also a green job for that matter?

All of this means is that there may be far more green jobs than we thought – and in the most unlikely of places too.

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