Peru stands at a crossroads. Three-quarters of its workers are informal or self-employed. The country’s diverse natural resources–which serve as the backbone of its economy and labour market–are also under threat. So what is it doing to change the script? How is it addressing labour challenges and ensuring decent employment for all while also promoting green jobs as part of a just transition? In Episode 7, we sit down for an open discussion with Katia Samanamud (Ministry of Labour for Peru) and Ana Belén Sánchez (International Labour Organization) to ask: what are the symptoms of change for green jobs in Peru?
Katia Samanamud: And I think that's a condition, you know, having decent employment is a necessary condition if you also want to promote green jobs.
Colm Hastings: Welcome to The Green Renaissance. A podcast series from the Partnership for Action on Green Economy, that aims to unpack the green recovery debate. This month, how Peru is putting decent employment and green jobs at the heart of its recovery plans. With Katia Samanamud, Director of Employment Protection at Peru’s Ministry of Labour.
Katia Samanamud: The government is committed to de-carbonization policies and those policies too are going to have an effect on jobs. We cannot avoid talking about these topics – how jobs are going to be affected by climate change, but also by the policies that the government will implement.
Colm Hastings: And Ana Belen Sanchez, Regional Green Jobs Specialist at the International Labour Organization:
Ana Belén Sánchez: We need social dialogue. Traditionally social dialogue has been a powerful tool to take decisions about working environments, about working conditions. But increasingly it's also a very powerful tool to take decisions about how to promote this green transition.
Colm Hastings: Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. I’m Colm Hastings, and this is The Green Renaissance.
Colm Hastings: One of the 20 PAGE partner countries, Peru is standing at a political crossroads. Three-quarters of its workforce is informal or self-employed, while the country’s diverse natural resources – which serve as the backbone of its economy and labour market – are also under threat. So what is the country doing to change the script? How is it addressing its labour-related challenges and ensuring decent employment for all, while also promoting green jobs as part of a just transition?
Colm Hastings: To find out more about Peru’s story, we spoke to two key figures that are behind the country’s push to put decent employment and green jobs at the heart of its recovery plans. Katia Samanamud, who is the General Director of Employment Protection at the Ministry of Labour in Peru. And Ana Belen Sanchez, who is a Regional Green Jobs Specialist for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Labour Organization. Let’s hear what they had to say.
Colm Hastings: So to begin with, I thought we could just try to set the scene briefly, by exploring the links between a green recovery and the topics of jobs and employment. So Ana, perhaps I can come to you first. This week we obviously have the flagship PAGE event at the UN High-Level Political Forum in New York, which is focused on the topic of green recoveries for a jobs-rich future. So what is the link between the two, and why is the topic of jobs and employment such an important dimension of the green recovery debate?
Ana Belén Sánchez: Yeah, it is a very important issue because most countries have now taken important decisions about how the future will look to them. So it is now the time to really make the correct decisions in order to place decent work, labour, people at the heart of those decisions, and also making sure that all those decisions are going to help to improve or to create better conditions for a green economy to grow. When we talk about labour impacts of a green economy, Green New Deal, and things like that, it is important to take into account that there are two different dimensions that need to be well functioning, each of them.
Ana Belén Sánchez: The first one is everything related to green. So it's climate change, it's adaptation to all the impacts that climate change is effecting to our economy and to our societies, it's biodiversity protection, it's reducing pollution, it's all those very important issues that we are all, I mean going through. So we need those recovery packages to pay attention to that. We need governments and those taking decisions to make sure that climate change fights and all the other things that I have mentioned are at the heart of the decision.
Ana Belén Sánchez: But on the other hand, we have to do our best to ensure that all those decisions are going to be positive for employment, are going to be positive for employment quality. So to the extent possible, better working conditions - in agriculture, in cattle raising, in fisheries, in forestry, in energy production, infrastructure, in all those sectors that depend that much on natural resources.We also need to think how all those new policies, investments, et cetera, can be positive for employment, in the amount of jobs that will be created.
Ana Belén Sánchez: We all know that COVID has destroyed many jobs in Latin America, for example, 26 million jobs have been destroyed. At the very beginning of the pandemic this number was much bigger. Fortunately, there are a number of jobs that have been created already. But, we have some bad news, that 60% of these jobs that were created since the beginning of the pandemic, have been created in the informal economy. So those are informal jobs, and this is very important because that means that those jobs don't have access to social protection, the labor rights are going to be difficult to be observed, and many other things.
Ana Belén Sánchez: So we need in this idea of green recovery, to pay attention to these two dimensions. One is to place the environmental policy, as part of the recovery. And the second one is to pay attention to, what we call at the ILO the decent work dimension of the recovery packages.
Colm Hastings: Perhaps now, Katia I can come to you. How does this really fit in with the work that you and your government have been doing in Peru? What has led the government to decide to really focus on the promotion of decent work and green jobs as part of its of its own recovery?
Katia Samanamud: Yeah, so I think Ana has framed it correctly. If there's anything the pandemic has been useful for, is for us to realize or remember that, we have some structural problems that with the pandemic have worsened, and one of those problems is employment, right? So during the, I think the second quarter of 2020, we saw a dramatic drop in employment, which - I mean this happened all over the world but particularly in Peru - of almost 40% of employment.
Katia Samanamud: So of course this was due to the fact that the government ordered confinement at the beginning of the pandemic, you know, and this provision was maintained maybe for longer than in most other countries. So what we need to realize is that in Peru, three out of four workers are self-employed or work in the informal sector. So they don't have a contract. If you tell them to go home, stay home, they're probably going to lose their jobs, they're not, they don't have a job to go back to, right.
Katia Samanamud: I think that made us realize that we really need to focus on the quality of employment, right? Because I mean, right now we're at a much better position. We are only like 300,000 jobs behind the pre-pandemic time. And the thing is the problem in Peru is not so much unemployment. The problem really is the quality of jobs. So, as I was saying that's a structural problem, that's not a problem that the pandemic originated. And that's the reason why we have decided as a government to work on promoting decent employment, right.
Katia Samanamud: And I think that's a condition, you know, having decent employment is a necessary condition if you also want to promote green jobs. So we're taking that as a first step in terms of, public policy.
Colm Hastings: So where does a, another topic I think that we were looking to cover today, where does a just transition fit into these discussions? Now this is probably just a personal opinion of mine, but I sometimes wonder if the, or worry that the just transition is becoming one of these phrases that the UN likes to create and which is thrown about, but then it's actually hard to pin down what it means in practice or what it looks like in reality. So what does a just transition mean to you both and particularly in the context of Peru, what would a just transition look like?
Ana Belén Sánchez: So maybe let me talk in general overall about how a just transition fits in this idea of a green recovery, and maybe Katia will talk about the specific case of Peru. It is very interesting what you were saying, no? To what extent this just transition has been used maybe too much, or lacking a little bit of the meaningful significance that it was given in 2015 when the ILO guidance were decided. Just transition in the end means two very important things. First of all, the recognition, the acknowledgement that we need to have a transition towards a better, environmentally-friendly economy and more sustainable, environmentally-sustainable society. That's something that we urgently need, for any country.
Ana Belén Sánchez: But the second thing that this idea of just transition means as well, is something that we shouldn't take for granted, that it's going to happen in all countries. And it's this notion of social justice, it's this idea of how this transition should not leave anyone behind. And how these transitions should take into account all the different needs of those who are going to be benefiting from the transition, because there will be new jobs, new business opportunities, there will be new infrastructure, there will be better healthy conditions for all because air will be less polluted and things like that. But we also need to pay attention and to take into consideration those who are not going to be benefited by the transition. And this is important. For many years in the past, there was this kind of overall idea that everything was going to be possible out of the green transition, but it's not the case.
Ana Belén Sánchez: As Katia was saying before, there are some structural issues that need to be overcome. And if we take a look to the Latin America economy, we will see that there are many countries that still rely very heavily on destruction of natural resources. On deforestation, on some types of agriculture production that is too intensive. And it's really been damaging our biodiversity. So we need to change that, we can't afford as society and humanity, to be living like that. And this is what the idea of just transition means. We need a transition, we need to work on that, but we need to make sure that social justice is kind of the guiding question or the guiding factor that is helping all of us, of course actors in the workforce but not only, to move towards a different way of development, of relating to each other.
Katia Samanamud: So Peru is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Most emergency events in recent years have been due to climate-originated phenomena, you know, heavy rains, droughts, frosts. On the other hand, Peru is also heavily dependent on natural resources, right? To mention an example in terms of labour, one third of the workforce is employed in agriculture. We also have mining, we also have fishing. And these activities are inevitably going to be affected by climate events. In the case of agriculture and fishing, for instance. Every 15 years, we have the El Nino phenomenon. This is likely to occur now more often and have more severe consequences.
Katia Samanamud: So these events occur, and they affect jobs, they affect livelihoods, and we need to be prepared for this. The government is committed also to de-carbonization policies and those policies too are going to have an effect on jobs. So we cannot avoid talking about these topics, how jobs are going to be affected by climate change, but also by the policies that the government will implement. So I think a just transition means working simultaneously on the environmental front, you know, building resilience as a country, also investing in green industries. And on the other hand, also working in the labour front. So we need to ensure that people can access a decent job in sustainable activities.
Colm Hastings: Who would be the, I guess, the most vulnerable in Peru, just focusing again on the context of Peru. Which sectors or segments of society would be most at risk if, for example, Peru continued with business as usual, or implemented an unjust transition?
Katia Samanamud: So I think agriculture, because so many people are employed there. And it's mostly self-employed farmers, who usually don't have the means to adapt if there's climate change, and this is not going to happen in the future, it is already happening now. If you go to some parts of the Amazon, for instance, where they grow coffee now, since the weather has changed, they are not able now to produce or have the same productivity as before. And they need to go, they need to move to different areas that are higher, for instance, that's just one example of what is happening right now and what is going to continue happening. And as I was saying, these people usually do not have the means to implement new technology that may help them. So I think there's an important role there for the government to intervene.
Colm Hastings: So now, I mean we have a better idea of the, I guess the overall landscape, the overall picture, particularly of the context in Peru. Ana, perhaps I could come to you again now quickly, to speak about maybe the promotion of green jobs more generally. I read this morning that the ILO has estimated that there's potentially 15 million green jobs that can be created just in Latin America and the Caribbean region alone. Which is a very impressive number, but how does that again translate into practice? What are the factors or I guess the conditions that are needed to eventually make that number a reality?
Ana Belén Sánchez: Yeah, that's the key question that everybody wants to know, how can we create good jobs and as many jobs as possible now, particularly after COVID. So, the answer is that we need to ensure that the labour markets, in all these green sectors function well, which is something very quick to say, but difficult to get it really. Because what you need, you need investments in the sectors that we know that are positive for this idea of green jobs. For example, construction, which is one of the sectors that many countries think of in the first place when governments want to very quickly reactivate labour markets.
Ana Belén Sánchez: So buildings, in some cases they are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, or electricity use. So there are different ways of doing buildings that are positive for the environment. You can have a building that uses solar energy, that uses water from the rain, that is easy for the families or for the communities who are living in those buildings, so are working in those offices, to go by bicycle from the homes to those places, to the schools, etcetera, to work, that have a green environment around that. All these that are going to be very positive for the people who are living there, it's also positive for employment.
Ana Belén Sánchez: Because for example, we take the example of construction, sustainable construction, overall, depending on the case but overall creates around 10% more jobs than kind of the traditional type of construction. And if you go to agriculture, if you go to other types of sector, I mean, economic sectors, you have similar figures. In the case of agriculture, if you take organic agriculture, it creates about twice as many jobs than other types of agriculture. So what we need, we need those workers who are going to be present in those sectors, you can also mention ecotourism, for example of course, renewable energies, energy efficiency, you need all those workers with the specific skills needed to do the activities and to manage the materials and to do the process that they need to do.
Ana Belén Sánchez: We also need the business community to understand where these new business options are. How they can do the transition within their own business sector. And this is not always easy to grasp. For example, if you take micro and small enterprises, many times, they simply don't have access to all these numbers, all this information about new technologies, they don't have access for example, to finance options for them to improve the business assets. So it is important also to work with the business community in order for them to, to do this transition, this green transition.
Ana Belén Sánchez: What else we need? We need social dialogue, which is very important. Social dialogue is the dialogue where workers and trade unions, the private sector and employers organizations, and the government talk to each other and take decisions. And traditionally social dialogue has been, it is a powerful tool to take decisions about working environments, about working conditions. But increasingly it's also a very powerful tool to take decisions about how to promote this green transition. So there are a number of things that we need. Of course we need labor policies, active labor policies, and a few other things, but I'm sure Katia, will talk more about that.
Colm Hastings: Yeah, please go ahead Katia. What are some of the steps that Peru has been taking to really promote green jobs, and what were the kind of considerations that they had to bear in mind when, when putting that plan and strategy in place?
Katia Samanamud: I mean, taking into account the situation that I was describing before, where three out of four workers are informal. I think that that made us as a government decide that promoting decent employment was a priority. And I think the government has just now reached a milestone in terms of promoting decent work.
Katia Samanamud: Only a few weeks ago, we approved the National Policy on Decent Employment. And I think this is a milestone because we have started using the definition of decent work, which we didn't use in the past. We were talking about inadequate jobs, informal jobs. But I think that the definition of decent work is more complete. It refers to a job where the worker has a contract, they earn adequate wages related to the effort made. They work decent hours, they have a fair and equitable treatment. They have access to social protection and social dialogue, as Ana was saying.
Katia Samanamud: So that is now a priority for the government, and I also think that is a starting point to also start talking about just transition and green jobs. Because decent work is not something you can achieve just from the Ministry of Labour. We need to involve the education sector, the finance sector, industry, agriculture. Those have to be actively involved, right? Their participation in the preparation of the plan, and more importantly now that we have to implement it, is crucial.
Katia Samanamud: Just to mention some of the goals that we are aiming at. Human capital in Peru is still low. That's something we need to work on, on promoting skills in workers that are useful in terms of the demands that businesses have. And that involves improving the quality of education. Particularly at the tertiary level, university education, technical education is key. But also consider considering other types of skills, you know digital skills, social, emotional skills. Here it is going to be key to try to identify, which are the skills needed to promote green jobs, and then work with the education sector for them to include the training needed, to be able to have workers that have the necessary skills.
Katia Samanamud: Right now, people tend to be trained or educated in specific areas, but the demand from businesses is in different areas. So, we need to close this gap. We also need to think what are the industries, the sustainable industries that as a country we want to promote in the long-term. Right now, most of the firms in Peru are pretty small, and they tend to have low productivity. So you can't have a decent job in a firm that has pretty low productivity. We need to help firms to grow. You know, we need to give them tools, finance, access to markets, because the private sector in the end is the one that is creating the jobs.
Colm Hastings: Perhaps then just as a, I think you've covered most of the points that we were looking to cover in that section. So maybe just as a final part, I wanted to speak to you about some of the symptoms of change, that can either hinder or facilitate Peru's ambition now to really become a green jobs leader. Perhaps we could start with the current context if it's possible, and I guess the political uncertainty that the country now finds itself in at the moment, I don't know that it's okay to talk about that. I guess the short term-ism of thinking that's often caused by political cycles can really be one of the main obstacles to environmental action. So is there a risk that the steps that your government is taking now, that these can potentially be - not thrown out, but kind of prevented from advancing in the way that you'd like once a new government is appointed? Is there anything that you can do to prevent that from happening or protect the steps that you've not taken?
Katia Samanamud: Well yeah, Peru is currently amidst uncertainty where, in a few weeks we're going to change governments. So we are in that process. We actually, when we approved the policy on decent employment, what we wanted was to give this to the next government, you know, as an agenda of things that they need to work on in the medium- to long-term. Some things that we can work on to increase the likelihood that this becomes, you know, the policies that the government will implement - I think we really need to work on creating awareness. Right now the trade unions don't necessarily demand for green jobs, mostly because there's a lack of information. So I think the first step to cover is to actually build a case for a green recovery, right?
Katia Samanamud: Workers and trade unions, of course, demand more jobs and demand better jobs. What they may not be so aware of is that creating or pushing for a green recovery and pushing for sustainable growth will also imply the creation of better jobs, right? So those two are not only linked, but if we disregard this issue of just transition, there is a great threat for jobs to be lost or for incomes to be also decreased. I think we need to work on this creation of awareness, both with workers, as well as with businesses so that they become the ones demanding these to the next government.
Katia Samanamud: And as I was saying, this goes with creating more information, more detailed information in terms of which sectors are the ones that have more opportunities for job creation, which activities are more at risk of losing jobs. The good thing is that in recent years, we have also seen a surge of green startups in the country. I think this is partly due to the fact that the government started providing seed capital from a program at the Ministry of Production. And this has helped the creation of these startups, but not just funding for startups, but also for incubators and accelerators. So we have this small, but growing ecosystem of innovation, particularly in areas such as agritech, for example, and also in the mining sector, which are two of the main sectors in Peru.
Katia Samanamud: So you typically think of mining as a sector that generates a lot of pollution, and that tends to be true, but there's also a number of companies that are starting to implement greener technologies. There's a lot of innovation happening there. I think that's quite interesting, not just for large firms, but also because of the ecosystem that is being created around, that includes small companies as well, which can also help for the creation of new jobs and better jobs and greener jobs. So we see that as an opportunity, you know, that can help the government to, you know, if they continue these policies, they're going to see increasingly better results.
Colm Hastings: I think you've just spoken about some of the opportunities and, I guess, the best practices in Peru. Ana, I know your work extends beyond Peru to the broader region. Are there any other examples from other, for example, Latin American countries that Peru could perhaps take inspiration from. And conversely, peer learning around green recoveries is something that's becoming particularly more important and relevant for our work at PAGE. Can the work in Peru be replicated or implemented in other Latin American countries?
Ana Belén Sánchez: Yeah, we are living in a region that is really progressing very quickly on this issue of just transition, and this interest about green jobs. And it's very exciting really, to be here and see all these developments, not on a daily base, but on a monthly basis let's say. So there are a number of countries that, for example, last year, decided to incorporate this issue of just transition within their NDCs, the Nationally Determined Contributions, which are the action plans, those measures, commitments that countries have taken in the framework of the Paris Agreement, the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Ana Belén Sánchez: So there are like a few countries already, for example, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, all those have already incorporated different measures and different approaches, but all have in common, the notion of just transition and the fact that the transition that those measures included in their NDCs, should be positive for employment, should be done in a way that will be positive for employment. And in most cases, not only for employment, but only ones that also overall at the social level.
Ana Belén Sánchez: So it will be positive for women, it will be positive for farmers, it will be positive for Indigenous Peoples, and some other sectors. And all those countries that I have mentioned are already developing different lines of work. In some cases, I'm thinking about Colombia and Argentina, for example, they are analyzing the labour dimension of some of their policies. The circular economy policy in the case of Colombia, the NDC in the case of Argentina.
Ana Belén Sánchez: And if you ask me about PAGE Peru, it is very interesting the effort that the country has done in order to conceptualize what green jobs means for the specific economic and social context of the country. So they have produced a very detailed report on the different indicators that should be taken to account, should be covered when it comes to defining a green jobs agenda. And that's something that, it's quite new for the region. So many other countries that I have mentioned that are also interested in this green agenda, will be very happy to learn from.
Ana Belén Sánchez: Let me also add something from the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados as well. They are also moving towards this direction of understanding where both the opportunities and the challenges - that are a few - are when it comes to just transition for their own economies and societies.
Ana Belén Sánchez: I would like to add something that we have not mentioned, but I think it's very important. And it's the idea of the gender dimension of just transition. At the ILO, we have found that within those 15 million new jobs that could be created in the future, in 10 years, actually, if the region, if Latin America and the Caribbean goes more ambitious in terms of decarbonization, there will be a very important difference in terms of who are going to have access to those jobs.
Ana Belén Sánchez: So according to the data that we researched together with Inter-American Development bank, 80% of those new jobs, will be created in sectors where now men are the majority. And only 20% of those jobs will be created in women-dominated sectors. So at the ILO, something that is at the heart of the decent work dimension is this issue of equity, and equal opportunity for all. And we are paying attention to this gap.
Ana Belén Sánchez: We need to work on that. It is important to make our best, also collectively as the UN, as government, as civil society, workers, business community, of course, to reduce this gap. We can't have a great green economy in the future, that is not really providing access to women workers. So that's something that I would like as well to talk about, to ask for more thinking, and more efforts and more policies about.
You’ve been listening to The Green Renaissance. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts to receive new episodes each month, and please give us a rating if you’ve liked the series so far. To find out more about the steps Peru is taking to promote decent employment and green jobs, head over to the PAGE website at www.un-page.org. Thanks as always for listening, and see you next time.