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Circular economy, a source of jobs


From developing new collaborative consumption-based business models to creating local jobs, the development of the circular economy offers real benefits in terms of employment. However, the work to estimate the number of jobs created is still at its early stages in France, regretted the Institut de l’économie circulaire in a recent publication.

The circular economy is a recent concept. This explains why its impacts in terms of employment have only been partially quantified by researchers and statisticians. However, extensive forward-looking research is being carried out on this subject, often to support or promote public ecological transition development policies. The study published in France last month by the Institut de l’économie circulaire presents a long list of research papers. For instance, it shows that in South Korea, the development of new technologies making more efficient use of resources would make it possible to create nearly 1.2 million jobs by 2020. In South Africa, better management of natural resources would create – the figure is very specific – a total of 232,926 jobs. And in Australia, rolling out a “factor 4” strategy (doubling the value of products, while reducing the quantity of resources used by half) could create 3.3 million jobs by 2026… The same can also be seen in Europe. The studies published in the last few years mention 1.4 to 2.8 million jobs created if the European Union reduces its consumption of natural resources by 17%; 378,000 if the waste framework directive is effectively implemented; 2 million if the productivity of resources is increased by 2030…

The latest research to date can be seen in the UK. Published by Green Alliance, it looks at three more or less dynamic scenarios for the transition to the circular economy. The most ambitious scenario predicts the creation of 517,000 jobs, with 102,000 net creations for the economy as a whole. The mid-level scenario would make it possible to create 205,000 jobs.

Credits: SUEZ environnement

What about France? The report published by the Institut de l’économie circulaire takes stock of the situation: 600,000 people currently work in one of the seven circular economy pillars as defined by the French environment and energy management agency (ADEME). It looks back over the estimate published by the ADEME in 2013 : “A substantial reduction in our consumption of natural resources would make it possible to create between 200,000 and 400,000 additional jobs”. However, the authors note that care must be taken with these figures, which represent an extrapolation for France based on a European-wide study commissioned by the European Commission.

Lastly, they regret that “for the moment, there is no overall research looking to assess the circular economy’s potential in terms of jobs for France. Currently, the review of the situation for each pillar (editor’s note – the ADEME’s seven pillars) is still very insufficient”. In conclusion, they warn that “we could miss out on major opportunities by failing to sufficiently identify the socioeconomic potential of the transition to the circular economy”. Calling all researchers…