Green jobs market on the rise in Malaysia, offering over 30,000 opportunities

According to the ILO, green jobs are jobs in any economic sector that contributes to preserving or restoring the environment, ultimately to sustainable levels.

04 May 2024 07:02pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Illustrated by Sinar Daily
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Illustrated by Sinar Daily
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KUALA LUMPUR - In 2021, Nurfatin Hamzah found herself among the fresh graduates and young people who struggled to find employment and often lost jobs due to the several phases of movement control orders imposed since March 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"During the pandemic, everyone was struggling to enter the workforce, facing job losses here and there. We also had peers who were still students, and some had just graduated from universities. They were interested in pursuing green jobs but didn't know where to start or whom to approach.

"Most of us harboured fears about venturing into green jobs since at that time the only types of green jobs to our knowledge were low-paying and heavily focused on non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Not everyone was interested in this field.

"However, one of our peers, Max Han was accepted for an online mentorship programme and felt inspired from the journey and shared with us the perks.

"We then discussed the idea of creating a mentorship programme which focused on sustainability under the Youths United For Earth (YUFE) in the first quarter of 2021), said Nurfatin, 28, during the ASEAN Green Jobs Forum 2024.

At 24 and 19 respectively, Nurfatin and Max co-founded YUFE, a youth-led NGO mobilising Malaysians nationwide for environmental action through storytelling, grassroots projects, and policy advocacy, which has launched Malaysia's first and only sustainability mentorship programme for youth interested in green jobs.

The programme which connects undergraduates with environmental leaders globally, resulting in internships, green jobs, and eco start-ups, has supported over 210 mentees who are undergraduates, with 140 mentors from various professions.

Speaking as a panellist in the plenary session of the ASEAN Youth Panel on Green Jobs, Nurfatin, who is also a UNICEF youth climate champion consultant, said that today's youth are more aware than ever of the complexities and challenges of climate change.

"They have grown up experiencing the effects of climate change firsthand, which have led to a generation of workers who are more inclined to seek employment aligned with their social and environmental values.

"It only seems fitting that they play a larger role in the green jobs market, a new trend in the labour market stemming from the climate crisis.

"This is a lived experience, which is why many young people are inclined to pursue green jobs," she said, emphasising that young people evaluate a company's Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) performance when considering employment opportunities.

GREEN JOBS MARKET

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), green jobs are jobs in any economic sector that contributes to preserving or restoring the environment, ultimately to sustainable levels.

ILO also defines green jobs as decent jobs where employees are provided with at least minimum wages, safe working conditions, social protection and which promote and respect social dialogue and worker rights.

Green jobs are meant to improve efficiency in the use of energy and raw materials, limit greenhouse gas emissions, minimise waste and pollution, protect and restore ecosystems as well as support adaptation to the effects of climate change.

ILO senior skills and employability specialist, Dr Akiko Sakamoto said for example, renewable energy is one of the most significant sectors for the development of new occupations under green jobs.

"There is large potential for green jobs growth. According to LinkedIn’s Global Green Report from 2022, sustainability managers, environmental health safety specialists, solar consultants, wind turbine technicians, and ecologists are among the fastest-growing green and greening jobs globally during the period from 2016 to 2021.

"However, green jobs growth in Asia Pacific at 30 per cent is lagging behind Europe (41 per cent) and the United States (70 per cent) due to a shortage of green skills in this region,” she said.

She said ILO estimates that 14.2 million jobs could be added in the region by 2030 if countries adopt changes in energy use that limit global warming to two degrees Celsius.

"According to Asian Development Bank Annual Report 2021, investing more than US$172 billion (RM818.8 billion) in five green growth opportunities, namely productive and regenerative agriculture, healthy and productive oceans, sustainable urban development and transport models, circular economy models, and renewable and efficient energy, can create 30 million jobs in Southeast Asia by 2030," she said.

GREEN SKILLS AS DRIVER FOR GREEN JOBS GROWTH

Sakamoto said skills development is critical to unlocking the employment potential of green growth, noting that about 25 million jobs are expected to be created under the Energy Sustainability Scenario by 2030.

"Job creation potential is large, but job loss is also significant where about 7 million jobs will be at risk of job destruction; 2 million jobs could be destroyed if workers are not re-skilled into new occupations.

"However, 5 million jobs could be reallocated within same occupations in growing industries if re-skilling and/or up-skilling is provided," she said.

"It must be a 'just transition' with a clear positive impact on the labour market, which means that the burden of change that benefits everyone will not be placed disproportionately on a few,” Sakamoto added.

This job loss can be mitigated, she said, by ensuring workers are equipped with new skills required for green jobs.

GREEN JOBS TO BRIDGE UNEMPLOYMENT GAPS

Most job experts believe that the green economy such as environmental care and sustainability are becoming fundamental to society, including Malaysia, with these changes expected to generate more job opportunities.

In Budget 2024, a total of RM230 billion was allocated for the sustainability-related development agenda. Of the total, RM30 billion were fiscal injection from the government and RM200 billion were private sector commitment.

In fact, strategic frameworks like the Green Technology Master Plan 2017-2030 (GMTP) and the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR), are expected to attract investments of up to RM1.3 trillion, boosting gross domestic product (GDP) to RM220 billion, and creating over 300,000 job opportunities by 2050.

According to the Labour Force statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), Malaysia’s unemployment rate remained at 3.3 per cent in February 2024, registering a lower number of unemployed individuals at 567,000 persons compared to the 4.6 per cent and 733,000 unemployed persons registered in 2021.

Human Resources Ministry (KESUMA) secretary-general Datuk Seri Khairul Dzaimee Daud said the imperative to transition towards green jobs has never been more urgent in Malaysia.

"Our region, like many others, faces interconnected challenges of climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource depletion. Climate change is more evident than ever. Even today, our region is experiencing unpredictable weather conditions as well as prolonged extreme weather.

"These challenges demand innovative solutions that not only mitigate environmental impact but also create new pathways for employment and economic prosperity,” he said.

Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) Head of Employment Insurance System, Azirruan Arifin, told Bernama that there were about 30,000 green jobs available, according to data from MYFutureJobs last year.

"As of April this year, we already have 4,000 green jobs up for grabs," he said, adding that priority will be given to hiring local talents, especially unemployed young people and fresh graduates from universities, to fill the unemployment gap.

He said SOCSO is actively bridging the unemployment gap by collaborating with the Prisons Department to provide exposure to inmates on job opportunities in the green industry.

"We do not want inmates to miss out on job opportunities when they are released from prison and end up unemployed due to societal stigma.

"Therefore, besides providing exposure to them, we also encourage companies to hire them to ensure they are given a second chance, thus reducing the unemployment rate among locals," he said.

He said KESUMA also held the Green Skills Fair 2024 at Avenue K from April 25-27, which offers 3,000 jobs in the green sector with a monthly salary of RM3,000 to RM16,000.

"In fact, SOCSO will be organising a series of MYFutureJobs Kesuma Madani Job Fair in conjunction with Labour Day 2024, starting at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) on April 30 and May 1, which will offer over 10,000 vacancies.

The series of job fairs will also be organised in Kelantan on May 4 and 5, Johor on May 5 and Sarawak on May 18 and 19," he said.

TVET, ON-THE-JOB TRAINING

To harness the hiring of green job momentum and effectively prepare the workforce for the evolving job landscape, the 2023 Global Green Skills Report emphasises the pivotal role of incorporating green skills into education systems.

As Malaysia positions itself to meet the demands of the green job market, Technical, vocational education and training (TVET) institutions emerge as key players in nurturing a workforce capable of contributing to sustainable and inclusive development.

Universiti Malaysia Perlis Faculty of Business and Communication lecturer, Ahmad Nizam Che Kassim said TVET institutions are uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between traditional education and the evolving needs of industries, especially in green jobs.

"By integrating green skills into their curricular, these institutions can empower students with the technical know-how and practical experience required to thrive in sectors crucial to environmental sustainability.

"The availability of TVET courses related to green jobs in Malaysia is certainly an important aspect to consider; however it may not be sufficient to fully equip young people for the workforce, especially given the increasing demand for green skills in various industries currently," he told Bernama in an email interview.

He said however, the government should focus on investment and developing and expanding these courses, by creating more funding for research pertaining to the green jobs or skills through the Malaysia Technical University Network (MTUN).

"I believe the government plays a crucial role in bridging the gap between the demand and supply of green skills and job opportunities.

"This could involve initiatives such as partnering with industries to develop relevant curriculum, providing incentives for institutions to offer more TVET courses related to green jobs, and enhancing collaboration between educational institutions and businesses to ensure graduates are equipped with the necessary skills," he said.

Ahmad Nizam said tax relief or incentives to companies, particularly in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be given in training programmes focused on green skills, to help alleviate some of the financial burden and encourage more businesses to prioritise up-skilling and re-skilling their workforce in this area.

HRD Corp’s chief strategy officer, Rony A. Gobilee emphasised that through their registered training providers, HRD Corp has been offering numerous green jobs-related training that employers can utilise for their workers.

"We have seen tremendous increment as far as green technology-related training, smart farming, smart construction goes, with more than 95 per cent CAGR (compound annual growth rate) from 2021 until 2023. This is a positive progression within Malaysian industries,” he said.

(Compound annual growth rate (CAGR) is a metric used in business, economics, and investing to measure the average annualised growth rate of compounding values over a given time period.

It's also known as a "smoothed" rate of return because it measures the growth of an investment as if it had grown at a steady rate on an annually compounded basis).

However, based on his observations and experience, employers need to do more than just send their workers for training.

As such, Rony appeals to employers to not just ensure training is not just attended, but also implemented once their employees go back to work.

"I noticed that there was a missing aspect among HR practitioners, where you send specific workers to a specific green job training without explaining why and what needs to be done after.

"We need to understand that when you are sent for training particularly, you need to be able to translate those training and learning into the workplace. This is what you call closing the skills gap. We don't close the skill gap just on the paper," he said. - BERNAMA