The conference - "Environmental activities and employment dynamics" - highlighted increasingly significant links between employment and environmental policy. Discussions focused on specific aspects of environmental policy, such as waste, water and noise, and how these had led to the creation of jobs.
Environmental jobs are also to be the focus of a new anti-unemployment programme for 18-26-year olds. Under the scheme, local authorities, NGOs and others are to be given financial aid to employ people under 26, nearly 28% of whom are currently unemployed, compared with the national average of 12.6%.
According to the French Institute for Environment (IFEN), there are now some 280,000 "direct" environmental jobs in France. The largest number of these are in the waste management sector, which employs 112,000 people. Based on work by BIPE Conseil - a Paris-based consultancy - IFEN says that direct employment in the sector could rise by another 40,000 jobs by 2002, and that a further 20,000 full-time jobs will be created through the need to build new waste collection and incineration facilities.
The second largest environmental employment area, IFEN says, is water management. Concentrated in water distribution and wastewater treatment, the sector currently employs 95,000 people. One surprise in the figures is that IFEN identifies only 37,000 jobs in nature conservation. This is proportionally far less than in other EU member states such as Germany, the Netherlands and the UK, even though France has some of the highest value natural habitats in western Europe.
The growth in waste and water-related employment is closely related to environmental policies, IFEN concludes. Implementation of the EU directive on urban wastewater treatment as well as national laws on solid waste and water management, both passed in 1992, are seen as contributing strongly to the trend.
One downside to environmental employment, IFEN says, is that many of the jobs are relatively unskilled. Only a "small proportion" of jobs in the environmental field require qualifications and training, it notes, concluding that the sector creates "jobs rather than careers". As further evidence, it says that environmentally-related vacancies advertised by the French executives' employment association APEC, accounted for only 1% of all advertisements.
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