Empowering vulnerable groups in the green economy – Workshop report

In March 2023, SOLIDAR, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) and the Open Society Foundations organised a workshop on ‘Empowering Vulnerable Groups in the Green economy’ with experts from a wide range of organisations to identify relevant gaps in research and policy and to propose measures to better support people in vulnerable situations and underrepresented groups in the green transition, focusing in particular on how they can access to education, training and employment opportunities.

Participants in the workshop, mainly representatives of civil society organisations, trade unions, social enterprises, business associations, research think tanks and poltical institutions, proposed a number of relevant action points.

In general, participants argued that the protection and empowerment of people in vulnerable situations must be at the heart of the EU’s just transition policy. This policy must address all dimensions of socio-economic inequalities, as well as multiple and cumulative vulnerabilities. As a start, more research and data are needed to to identify vulnerable groups and communities and to better understand their needs and the factors that cause vulnerability. Targeted policies are needed to support people in vulnerable situations, underpinned by better mapping of economic and social economic and social indicators.

The workshop discussions also highlighted the need to better understand the skills required for the jobs created by the green transition, in which sectors they will be created, at what skill level, and who is best placed to provide them. Participants highlighted the need to invest in lifelong learning for all, with priority and outreach to marginalised or underrepresented groups, and to gain a better understanding of how particular groups can best access and benefit from relevant training. Many participants suggested social support measures to ensure social inclusion and a decent standard of living for all, regardless of employment status, and political participation. These include social protection, strong and well-funded social services (including child and adult care services), access to decent and energy-efficient housing (including building renovation), measures to tackle energy and transport poverty, electricity market reforms that work for people, and others.

The meaningful participation of vulnerable and underrepresented people in political discourse and decision-making on green and social policies was highlighted as an essential element of a just transition, to be ensured through concrete measures. Participants pointed out that institutions at different levels, civil society and community organisations, trade unions, (work integration) social enterprises, businesses and business associations have a key role to play in supporting and empowering people in vulnerable situations in the context of the green transition. There is a need to understand which of these – or other – entities are best placed to provide such support and to support the activities of such organisations, including through adequate resources and active labour market policies.

Finally, participants stressed the need to significantly strengthen and improve the current EU policy framework for a just transition and suggested a number of ways to achieve this, including an overarching framework that is comprehensive and inclusive of all affected sectors, with concrete, targeted measures to support people in vulnerable situations in the world of work and beyond. There is also a need for sufficient, sustainable and long-term funding, with a percentage of all EU funds specifically earmarked to support vulnerable groups.