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Skills for green jobs in Australia

Australia is a high carbon emissions country on a per capita basis, with an imposing challenge of transitioning to a low carbon economy. But the move towards a ‘green’ economy and a ‘green’ workforce with decent work has become more contested since the last ILO country report in 2009. The purpose of this report is to outline the major changes in climate and skills policy, as well as in the economy and employment, following the 2009 review of climate policy and skills developments. This report advances two specific arguments. First, Australia is still finding its way toward a coherent and integrated low-carbon policy that can inform corporate policy and promote green skills development. However, even in the absence of such a policy framework we do find several interesting initiatives at different levels and in different sectors. Giving greater recognition of these local, regional and sectoral initiatives is probably just as important as seeking greater national leadership on the issues. In an increasingly divided national political scene, these ‘transformations from below’ are indeed part of Australia’s longer-term democratic history. Second, the key social partners that in the past were understood to be crucial to skills development and labour markets (employers and trade unions) have not been strong or sustained advocates of action on climate change and the skills implications of such a transition. In part this is because of contending interests within these groups, and in part because of the limited available resources for tackling a growing range of contemporary social and environmental issues facing these social partners. In the absence of these traditional social partners, other social actors have begun to experiment and innovate around climate change abatement and green skills. Understanding the trajectory toward, and possibilities for, inclusive and sustainable growth in Australia might therefore require expansion of the concept of social partners. The report recommends that, at least in the case of Australia, the range of social partners needs to be understood in a broader context than merely governments, employers and unions.