Options for Green-Skilled Migration Partnerships: A Guide for Policymakers

The green transition is widely expected to lead to high levels of net job creation, with roles distributed across the pay and skill spectrum. To fill these roles, many countries of destination will need to use migration alongside their domestic labour supply. Yet few countries of origin have enough skilled workers to meet their own green transition targets. As a result, any green-skilled migration facilitated by countries of destination should be linked with investments in the training, recruitment, and retention of workers into ‘green’ jobs within countries of origin. This paper explores three models that link training and migration in a partnership framework—fixed-term migration; Global Skill Partnerships; and migration with parallel investments—to maximise both economic development and carbon reduction benefits. For each model, the paper outlines key considerations that should be taken into account along with a worked example. It also includes a "guide," walking policymakers through the different models to understand which would best meet the needs of countries of origin, countries of destination, and employers.

From the paper:

The “green transition” is accelerating. Globally, more than 80 countries have pledged to substantially reduce their carbon emissions in the coming decades. This requires the rapid development and expansion of low-carbon or “green” technologies—such as solar energy, wind power, bioenergy, hydropower, building insulation and decarbonization—and the electrification of transport networks. There are many constraints to this green transition, such as a lack of finance, political will, and technology. Yet the lack of skilled manpower is only starting to be discussed.

The green transition is widely expected to lead to high levels of net job creation; the International Energy Agency expects that there will be 14 million new green jobs by 2030. Policymakers often claim that these jobs will be highly paid and highly skilled, in a bid to garner local support for the green transition. However, evidence demonstrates that these jobs will actually be distributed across the pay and skill spectrum. For example, wind, solar, and hydrogen jobs offer wages 15–30 percent lower than those in conventional energy. While wages in green transition-relevant sectors may increase with government stimuli, they may not rise fast or far enough to attract local workers during the necessary timeframes. In addition, many green jobs will not require a high level of skills; for example, nearly 70 percent of the low-carbon jobs created by the US Inflation Reduction Act will require specific vocational training at most, rather than a college degree.

If countries of destination are unable to attract enough domestic workers into these new green jobs, they may open up legal migration pathways to attract skilled immigrants. Yet, at present, almost all countries are struggling to find enough green-skilled workers. Expanding skilled migration alone could therefore undermine the ability of countries of origin to either meet their own green transition goals or, in many cases, supply reliable and affordable energy to their populations. We propose that any expansion of green-skilled migration should therefore be paired with investments in the country of origin, ideally supporting the training, recruitment, and retention of workers in green transition-relevant sectors. Doing so would ensure that migration does not prevent any countries from meeting their green transition goals, and that the workforce is present to contribute to a global reduction in carbon emissions. It is, moreover, possible that access to international migration could incentivise greater interest in green transition-relevant skills. This could support countries of origin in accessing a reliable pipeline of skilled workers in subsequent years, when they will be most needed.

CGD’s project, “Linking Training and Migration for the Green Transition,” explores these issues. A first paper, published in early 2024, looked at the demand for, and supply of, green-skilled workers in 10 countries of origin and destination. In this second paper, three models that pair migration with training within a partnership framework—fixed-term migration, Global Skill Partnerships, and migration with parallel investments—are summarised in a guide for policymakers. It is informed by a series of roundtables with policymakers, employers, and other stakeholders within countries of destination, as well as conversations with policymakers in countries of origin. We hope that this paper will be of interest and relevance to policymakers in a wide range of government departments (such as development, interior, and energy) in both countries of origin and destination.

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