Jobs and occupations in the green economy: a multiple reality in the Paris region

04 November 2015ContactCarine Camors, Cristina Lopez

The Paris region has considerable assets relevant to the issue of ecological transition, with 771,200 professionals either in possession of environmental job skills ("green occupations") or in a position to develop these skills ("green-related occupations"). Among them, 246,000 are employed in economic sectors that are part of the "green economy"; these employees are the central focus of the region's new development dynamic.

The Paris region is one of the main drivers of the French economy, and currently faces a number of environmental challenges. Ecologically-driven transition represents a significant opportunity to adapt to these new challenges and broaden perspectives towards a greener economy; as a result, it is necessary to assess and define this emerging sector in order to properly evaluate its impact upon employment in the region. Though the green economy can create jobs, it also has the potential to destroy them. Key to the success of this ecological transition are the ability of the economic system and individuals to adapt quickly to the new concepts involved.

The green economy in the Paris region

The idea of a"green economy" is a relatively recent notion, and current statistical nomenclatures are not always ideally suited to portray the subtleties of the concepts involved. The term covers all forms of economic activity geared towards positive environmental impact, with such activities being generally divided into two categories: eco-activities and related activities.
Eco-activities are those whose operations focus on environmental protection, and comprise most of the jobs that are considered to be either "green" or "green-related": 

  • Environmental Protection: waste collection and treatment, agriculture, sanitation, soil cleanup, etc.
  • Natural Resource Management: reducing consumption of natural resources and raw materials, mobilising renewable energy (biomass, biofuels, marine energy, wind, solar, geothermal, etc.).
  • Cross-sector activities: R&D, environmental engineering.

Peripheral activities related to the green economy are divided into the following categories:

  • Construction: insulation, building surface coverings, waterproofing, architecture, production of more efficient industrial products.
  • Management of outdoor areas and green spaces.
  • Transport: construction, maintenance and repair of rail and tram network infrastructures.
  • Water production and distribution.

Overall, green business sectors employ 880,600 individuals in the Paris region. However, only a small proportion of these roles are completely focused on environmental issues, so a sectorial perspective actually overestimates the number of jobs in the green economy. For a more accurate picture, it is useful to distinguish between "green" occupations and those which are "green-related".
As such, only an approach that takes both job sectors and individual occupations into account will provide a precise picture of the green economy. When we combine the two approaches, the result is a green economy comprising 246,000 professionals in roles which are green or green-related within green business sectors, representing 4.5% of the regional economy.

"Green" occupations

Green occupations are those whose essential skillsets are recognised as being part of the environmental sector. They involve contributions to the assessment, early detection, limitation and correction of environmental damage. In the Paris region, 26,400 employees occupy roles which are "strictly" green, either within the green economy or outside it.

Newly-identified green occupations

These roles are focused on the production and distribution of energy and water (distribution engineer or EDF network controller), sanitation and waste management (sanitation operative, waste disposal operative, purification system operative, etc.).
Certain cross-sector roles are also included: pollution treatment technicians (water quality measurement technician, hygiene-safety-environmental training provider, etc.). Other roles focus on the protection of natural resources (national park ranger, forest warden, etc.).
In comparison with the rest of France, green occupations are slightly under-represented in Paris Region, despite the fact that the region represents 21% of overall employment in all sectors. When strictly defined, 19% of green occupations in France are found in the Paris region.

The majority of these roles are occupied by men in long-term (CDI) contracts, with few academic qualifications

A significant portion of green occupations are held by routine workers (40%) compared to all occupations (14%). This explains the overrepresentation of male employees: 84% of posts are occupied by men, compared to 51% across all occupations. Women are better represented in more highly-qualified cross-sector roles, occupying 38% of engineer-level posts and environmental technical management positions.
This sector of activity also employs more young people (32% of those active are aged 30 or under, compared to 22% in the job market as a whole).
Green occupations tend to represent roles with a certain level of employment stability, being distinguished by a high proportion of full time and long-term (CDI) contracts.
Taking relevant positions into account, almost a quarter of professionals doing green occupations do not have university degrees, compared to 17% across all occupations. Jobs pertaining to sanitation and waste management require relatively few qualifications: over half of these roles are occupied by individuals having only secondary education qualifications (brevet), compared to 20% of jobs in the overall workforce.
Conversely, only a third of those active in these roles possess higher education qualifications. Engineers and those working in environment management are highly qualified: 86% have a higher education qualification - twice the regional average.

"Green-related" occupations

Occupations said to be "green-related" are those which are not solely focused on environmental issues, but which nonetheless involve a certain skillset incorporating environmental aspects within individual job descriptions. These occupations are harder to identify, as it is difficult to accurately assess the "greenness" of a particular role. Nevertheless, around sixty roles have been identified in this category.
While green occupations are primarily concentrated in the green economy (60%, mostly in eco-activities), the majority of "green related" occupations are found in other sectors (70%).

More high-qualified roles than in green occupations

20% of green related occupations in France are concentrated in the Paris region; these professionals tend to work in sectors not specifically focused on the environment.
As a result of the highly diverse nature of green-related occupations, average employee statistics closely resemble those of other sectors in the region: 42% have higher education qualifications (Baccalaureate or higher), 23% are aged under 30, and 78 % have long-term (CDI) contracts. Amongst the most common roles are socio-cultural training providers, building and public works engineers, researchers and building site labourers, all with highly diverse environmental skillsets to be developed.

The necessity of skill adaptation

The construction sector is keenly aware of the need to improve the energy performance of its buildings, especially where eco-construction techniques are concerned. Site foremen are required to oversee coordination of various trade skills in order to ensure the energy efficiency of the build.
In transport and logistics, energy-efficient driving and optimisation of goods delivery processes both require skills development on the part of drivers, buyers, logistics operators, etc.
In the automotive industry, professionals must adapt in order to incorporate the dismantling and recycling of old and obsolete vehicles, as well as producing more energy-efficient systems (hybrid cars, electric vehicles, hydrogen-powered engines, etc.).
Occupations pertaining to the management and maintenance of natural spaces, meanwhile, require renewed operational models for a more ecological approach.

Adapting the national statistical model for the Île-de-France region 

The first statistics pertaining to the green economy have only been defined in France since 2010. This approach has the advantage of presenting shared diagnostics of methods, tools and enumeration of jobs and green occupations. The scope of the green economy as established at the regional level does not correspond to that of the national level. While at a national level a product code is used to identify the portion of green activity in each sector, on a regional scale the only way to define the extent of green and green-related occupations is via inter-sector analysis. This so-called "trident" methodology has enabled the national reference system to be adapted for application in the Paris region. Though imperfect, this method of definition has provided some consensus and allows us to gain a more precise appreciation of the challenges involved.

Development perspectives

The ecological transition is already underway in the regional economy, driven by various public and private stakeholders across the entire range of green business sectors.

Resources and a dense fabric of diversified operators

The Paris region government is involved at various levels across all industrial sectors of strategic importance for the green economy (renewable energy, CO2 storage, low-energy buildings, clean vehicles, intelligent networks/smart grids, optimisation of industrial processes, etc.).
It also maintains significant involvement in water management, clean air initiatives and geothermal energy. The types of organisations involved are also diverse: industrial enterprises, research groups, commercialisation affiliates and the headquarters of major environmental groups.
As such, the region is performing increasingly well in terms of environmental technologies, with 40% of new "green patents" in France being registered in the region. A new system for innovation aims to tap into the scientific and technological knowhow of the most influential private sector eco-business stakeholders (Veolia, Suez, etc.) as well as those of related industries (Renault, Saint-Gobain, Eiffage, Air Liquide, Rhodia, etc.).
There are also numerous research laboratories, universities and higher education institutions with programs focusing on innovation and the environment, as well as a competitive cluster named Advancity whose activity is dedicated to the idea of "sustainable cities." These environmental innovations have a wide-ranging capacity for information distribution and display strong potential in terms of providing knowledge and training across relevant business sectors.

Anticipate and support job development

One significant challenge in terms of responding to the pressing needs of ecological transition is the adaptation of initial and ongoing professional training, and the integration of environmental skills across all green and green-related occupations. As such, training programs will need to be adapted so as to introduce technical methods, knowledge and skills made necessary by the process of ecological transition.

Development supported by public policy

It is in the region's best interests that the development dynamic leading towards a green economy be maintained, driven by the progressive dissemination of innovation and the regulation of products and manufacturing processes, and bolstered by environmental policies designed to work on a national scale. The Habitat Energy Renovation Plan (Preh), the Regional Climate, Air and Energy Scheme (SCRAE) and the Paris Île-de-France Regional Plan (Sdrif) have set goals aiming to stimulate innovation pertaining to transport, energy production and energy efficiency. The investment plan linked to the Grand Paris project will also need to take into account the environmental standards and objectives currently being applied, presenting a significant development incentive for these sectors. According to professional building federations (Buildings and Public Works), these public investments could generate up to 108,000 extra jobs (full time or equivalent) by 2020.

However, these sectorial growth forecasts are evaluative and highly sensitive to changes and developments caused by innovation and regulation - the potential for job creation will only be fulfilled if markets are able to develop and adapt. Though the region boasts considerable assets in terms of research, labour, and sectorial diversity, it also faces stiff international competition in these highly strategic development sectors.
Public policies serve to demarcate the scope of ecological transition; they define the environmental objectives and influence the choice of economic operators, determine costs and prices and establish production standards. They may also support the development of certain sectors by financing R&D, by granting business aid or investing via public procurement.  Their role is therefore paramount to the success of the ecological transition and its contribution to economic development and employment.

Green economy: economic entities whose operations favour environmental protection or development. It includes eco-businesses and peripheral industries.
Eco-activities: businesses providing goods or services whose ultimate outcome relates to environmental protection or sustainable management of natural resources (solutions for air, water and soil pollution, or waste management, for example).
Related activities: businesses whose primary services do not include environmental protection, but which are undergoing development in accordance with environmental regulations, especially where energy efficiency is concerned (construction, transport, logistics, etc.).
"Green" occupations: roles and professions in which the remit and skillset contribute to the assessment, early detection, limitation and correction of environmental damage.
"Green-related" occupations: roles and professions which are not solely focused on environmental issues, but which nonetheless involve a certain skillset incorporating environmental aspects within individual job descriptions.

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Economy | Environment