Resource productivity and waste

OECD – WCEFOnline Side Event: Labour implications of the circular economy transition

7 December 2020
14:00-15:30 CET

Labour implications of the circular economy transition

OECD – WCEFOnline Side Event

Governments emphasise potential job creations as one of the main beneficial aspects of resource efficiency and circular economy policies. These new jobs would follow the anticipated structural changes in the economy from material-intensive to more labour-intensive activities. A green recovery from COVID-19 under circular economy principles could possibly provide the opportunity to not only reduce the material intensity of the economy, but to also generate new growth for employment and the economy.

A recent OECD study reviewed 47 scenarios from 15 modelling studies, both regional and global. Existing studies indicate that a circular economy transition is likely to lead to net improvement in employment rates, albeit small: findings show that employment gains of circular policies range between 0 and 2%, with one study predicting employment gains up to 7%. However, these aggregate employment impacts hide large differences among sectors, with employment decreasing in some sectors, but with job opportunities in other sectors. OECD modelling shows that employment in secondary based metal production and recycling sectors will be 27% and 48% higher than the baseline (business as usual scenario), corresponding to 284,000 and 68,000 additional jobs at the global level.

This OECD-WCEFOnline Side Event invited policymakers and representatives from business, NGOs, academia and other stakeholders to learn about the state-of-the-art knowledge on circular policies and expected employment effects. Participants discussed the possible opportunities, pitfalls and limits that CE policies may have for employment. The discussion also looked at opportunities for a circular green recovery from COVID-19. The session featured presentations of OECD’s work on labour implications of the circular economy transition, followed by a discussion with relevant stakeholders.

The workshop will consist of 3 sessions:

Session 1 - Labour market consequences of a transition to a circular economy

This session provided an overview of the mechanisms that drive changes in a labour market in the transition to a circular economy and show how modelling analyses of the labour market implications of circular economy policies can inform experts and decision-makers. It will do so by highlighting insights gathered from the existing literature and drawing upon 47 scenarios across 15 modelling studies.

Presentation by Frithjof Laubinger

Session 2 - The jobs potential of a transition towards a resource efficient and circular economy: results from the OECD’s ENV-Linkages model

This session showed key results from a recent OECD modelling analysis of the consequences of a policy-driven transition towards more resource-efficient and circular economy on labour markets and employment levels across countries and sectors. The results are based on simulations of a stylised policy package, paralleling a material tax reform, which aims at shifting consumption away from primary material use to secondary materials and recyclables. This look at the modelling exercise and results will allow experts to better grasp the possible intended and unintended labour market consequences of fiscal instruments that target material use.

Presentation by Eleonora Mavroeidi

Session 3 – Discussion and Q&A

This session invited experts to discuss their insights with regards to the labour market implications of circular economy transition and policies.


Recent OECD reports on labour markets and circular economy


Engage with us