Counting Green Jobs in China Harder than Creating Them

Most In-Depth Exploration To Date of China’s Green Economy Finds Huge Potential for Job Growth

Inconsistent Methodologies, Fast-Growing Industries, and Incomplete Data Make Measuring Job Creation Difficult
Washington, D.C.—China’s massive and fast-growing economy could create millions of new green jobs over the next eight years, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. The study is the most thorough effort known to date to explore China’s green jobs potential.

An analysis of China’s energy, transportation, and forestry sectors shows they could provide at least 4.5 million green jobs just in 2020, with millions more positions created in the coming years. Beyond the numbers, however, Worldwatch’s research revealed large problems in the current methodologies that exist in China to track and count job creation by sector.

Worldwatch found inconsistent methodologies used by the Chinese national and regional governments, challenges tracking the many smaller businesses that likely have a significant impact on job creation, a lack of industry trade organizations to monitor employment growth, and difficulty in separating out “green” sub-sectors from larger, fast-growing industries.

“Unlike in the United States, which has long had well-established tools and institutions to monitor employment growth, China’s means of tracking job creation by industry have a long way to grow,” said Worldwatch China Program Manager Haibing Ma. “Our report shows enormous potential for green job creation in China, but more importantly it shows a clear need to develop more robust and accurate tools for tracking employment trends. This capacity building is particularly important given China’s dominant role in the global green economy.”

The report also identifies key lessons learned in China’s green development. In some cases, inefficient implementation has led to unintended economic or environmental costs. Roughly one-third of China’s installed wind capacity has difficulty connecting to the grid, causing millions of dollars of investment loss. In addition, the dominant focus on GDP growth among local governments may further challenge the central government’s ability to efficiently and effectively plan for green development.

The report, Green Economy and Green Jobs in China: Current Status and Potentials for 2020, was co-authored by Ma together with Dr. Jiahua Pan and Dr. Ying Zhang, leading researchers from Worldwatch’s Beijing-based partner, the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies (IUE) at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS).

Key findings of the report include:

  • China’s solar PV industry is projected to create an average of 6,680 direct jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
  • China’s wind power industry, including both power generation and manufacturing, is expected to generate approximately 34,000 green jobs annually between 2011 and 2020. The industry has provided an average of 40,000 direct green jobs each year between 2006 and 2010.
  • China is expected to add as many as 220 million new vehicles between now and 2020, with 16.7 million of those being either hybrid or electric vehicles produced by China.
  • High-speed rail in China could create an average 230,000 jobs annually between 2011 and 2020.
  • Beijing’s urban rail system alone could create 437,000 jobs each year by 2020.
  • China’s forestation sector employed as many as 1.8 million full-time workers in 2010 alone. Between 2011 and 2020, forestation activities could offer as many as 1.1 million direct and indirect jobs annually.
Notes to Press
Reporters and editors can request an electronic copy of the full report by writing Ma has also published two blogs on the statistical challenges encountered in the report: 

About the Worldwatch Institute: Worldwatch Institute delivers the insights and ideas that empower decision makers to create an environmentally sustainable society that meets human needs. Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society. The Institute’s State of the World report is published annually in 27 countries and 16 languages.