A recent report sets out the linkages between employment and Europe’s biodiversity objectives – and the new skills workers will need to help meet these.
Biodiversity describes the variety of living organisms on our planet and the many different ecosystems and habitats needed to support them. Preserving biodiversity is important because once a species becomes extinct, then it is lost forever – as are the benefits it offers. Without bees to pollinate crops, the risk of food shortages is higher; loss of forests and wetlands lowers the capacity of natural systems to regulate climate change; and the extinction of plant species reduces our capacity to discover natural sources for new medicines – both aspirin and penicillin come from nature. Some 25% of European species and 62% of habitats are at risk.
For this reason, the EU Biodiversity Strategy published in 2011 aims to reverse the loss of biodiversity and preserve the benefits this natural capital offers – both environmental and economic, including employment opportunities. The ‘EU biodiversity objectives and the labour market’ report investigates how the challenge of preserving biodiversity can create jobs. It also looks at the skill gaps in today’s workforce that need to be closed if this challenge is to be met. It identifies and analyses three job categories:
The report points out that mapping skills shortages and training needs in biodiversity-related employment has only just begun in some Member States. A more strategic approach to training opportunities is needed it concludes. However, it sees important potential benefits for the labour market with a good number of higher-skilled, knowledge-intensive jobs required to meet biodiversity targets. Better quality of jobs is also desirable to attract young, urban job-seekers into the field; and more diverse biodiversity skills among farm, fishery and forest workers will help sustainable employment in these declining sectors. EU funding – including the ESF – has an important role to play in cementing the links between employment and biodiversity preservation across all three job categories. The report also highlights the opportunities that biodiversity jobs offer to unemployed and disadvantaged groups of job-seekers.