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SEI Asia podcast: Informal workers in the just transition to a green economy

In this third episode of the SEI Asia miniseries on “Air Pollution in the World of Work”, we speak to Eric Roder, a specialist on green jobs, climate action and resilience with the International Labour Organization (ILO). He explains how we can ensure a just transition to a green economy with an emphasis on social justice and the rights of workers.

Kadesiree Thossaphonpaisan, Rajesh Daniel / Published on 29 November 2022

In a genuine just transition, people will not lose jobs and livelihoods in the transition to a green economy to achieve climate goals. A just transition is therefore not only a technical fix, using clean technology in production processes, but gives voice to workers, especially those most affected by the transitions.

In Southeast Asia, informal workers, street food vendors in urban areas or small-scale garment workers who get paid minimum wages are not provided occupational safety, social security, or access to trade unions. But informal workers often shoulder the burden of healthcare. In transitioning to a green economy, the voices and concerns of informal workers need to be addressed.

ILO emphasizes social justice because in its view, a more sustainable and greener economy cannot be accomplished without being inclusive of workers and their concerns.

In Eric’s view: “Informal workers also need a trade union, for example, workers that operate food carts. Then their voice becomes part of a collective. This also offers more opportunity for them to move from the informal sector to the formal sector.”

“The government can also increases its own tax base, bringing in people from the informal sector to the formal sector…. For those people that have joined [a trade union], obviously, the biggest incentive is they have a greater voice,” Eric said.

Apart from governments,  supporting the just transition involves both workers and industries. The industrial sector could support the exploration and implementation of innovations to reduce emissions and environmental impacts. Moreover, they should collaborate across the supply chain with customers and suppliers to develop their knowledge and capacities. Meanwhile, workers will play a key role in designing and implementing new processes and products.

“As the pandemic has highlighted, workers, particularly in the early stages of the supply chain, bear a lot of the risk and cost of our current globalized supply chain system. The majority of informal workers are in the garments sector or involved in agricultural activities, and most of these are also women. Protecting and empowering these workers, will be an essential strategy towards building their resilience,” Eric explained.

This is an excerpt of a podcast conversation with Eric Roder for the third episode of the SEI Asia podcast miniseries “Air Pollution in the World of Work”.

Listen to the podcast below:

Podcast producers

Rajesh Daniel

Head of Communications, SEI Asia


SEI Asia

Kadesiree Thossaphonpaisan

Topics and subtopics
Air : Pollution / Health : Well-being
Related centres
SEI Asia

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