Green jobs and training

A government study to characterise the status of green jobs and training in Portugal used data on green jobs in a government ministry and data on private sector employment in 23 sectors. The study revealed that the number of green jobs in Portugal doubled between 1996 and 2007. More men than women held green jobs, with many of the women involved in vocational training and research. The number of degree and masters courses on the environment has increased significantly.

Background to study

The concept of green jobs is currently (re)-emerging in international political discussions as part of a wider dynamic transition towards a sustainable economy or green economy, and not just jobs in the environment sector.

In March 2010, the Office of Strategy and Planning (GEP) of the Ministry of Labour and Social Solidarity (MTSS) published the results of a study that aimed to provide a general characterisation of the current status of green jobs and training in Portugal. The study used two sources:

  • data on green jobs in the public administration;
  • records of private companies and their employees.

The public administration data refer only to the number of employees in 2005–2007 in the former Ministry for Environment, Spatial Planning and Regional Development (MAOTDR).

The company data were for 1996–2006 and covered 23 sectors related to the following areas:

  • agriculture;
  • gardens/landscaping;
  • forestry;
  • water;
  • waste and cleaning;
  • recycling;
  • environment and nature;
  • tourism;
  • research and development (R&D);
  • training;
  • environment and society.

The selection criteria for these activities combined of a number of factors including:

  • environmental integration and sustainability as the main component in goods and services;
  • connection with a set of activity areas defined by international and national organisations such as Eurostat, the International Labour Organization (ILO), the Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Statistics Portugal (INE).

However, it is not possible to identify the jobs considered ‘green’ in these activities simply by selection of the activity and the study highlights the limitations of this type of diagnosis as a way of assessing the numbers of green jobs.

Definition of ‘green jobs’

For the purpose of this study, ‘green jobs’ are defined as jobs that progressively reduce the environmental and social impact of economic activities, integrating training backgrounds and occupations, and covering both rural and urban economies. This includes jobs that contribute to:

  • reducing the consumption of energy and raw materials;
  • moving to a low carbon economy (that is, reducing emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere);
  • protecting and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity;
  • minimising pollution and the production of waste.

Main findings

Public sector

MAOTDR employed 4,287 people in 2007, of which 91% were employees (civil servants) and agents, and 9% were workers with individual employment contracts. Compared with 2005, this represented a reduction of 11%, with the loss of 531 jobs.

Private sector

Over the last decade there has been a positive trend in the total number of workers (from 27,937 in 1996 to 59,621 in 2007) in those sectors defined as involving green jobs. In the 1990s the growth was quite slow but has accelerated since 2003. In 2007, the total number of employees in green jobs was just under 60,000.

More men than women are working in the activities considered by the study. Nevertheless, the number of women has also increased significantly since 2003, reaching 41% in 2007. The study also highlighted the fact that most women working in these types of jobs are involved in vocational training and R&D activities, especially for social and human sciences, and tourism (particularly spa therapies and rural tourism). On the other hand, waste management in general has a higher percentage of men.

The study revealed stability among different age groups over time, although a decreasing trend in the youngest group (<34-years-old) and an increasing trend for the group aged 35–54 was noted. R&D areas, vocational training, environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), botanical gardens, zoological and nature reserves were the activities with a greater number of younger workers.

There were more skilled than unskilled workers in green jobs, although the figures for skilled and unskilled workers have been similar since 2004. Low skilled workers were particularly involved in activities such as camping and caravanning, rural tourism, gardening, agriculture and forestry.


Vocational training (medium level) on environment and sustainable development in Portugal is still at an early stage. A significant proportion of workers with green jobs have been educated to less than secondary level. However, the number of graduate workers with a degree in environment and sustainability has been growing sharply.

Initially, vocational training in this area was dominated by public institutions or higher education institutions but private higher education institutions have now also begun to develop courses. Apart from engineering, the number of environmental degree and masters courses has greatly increased over the last 15–20 years. However, even though the demand for such courses has grown remarkably, this development is not completely compatible with real market needs in terms of the professional skills needed for a green economy. There still a need to:

  • promote specialised training on all aspects of renewable energy and combating climate change;
  • create incentives for companies to adhere to lifelong training programmes on environmental and sustainability issues;
  • promote and organise/support training activities on environment, spatial planning and sustainability.


Prata Dias, G., Ramos, T.B., Pipio, A., Fuentes, A. and Valente, S. (2010), Estudo sobre Empregos verdes em Portugal [Study on green jobs in Portugal], GEP/MTSS, Lisbon.

Heloísa Perista and Janine Nunes, CESIS

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