When the UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for a snap general election on the 8th June, all eyes turned to the state of the economy. Despite her claim that there would be no election until 2020, May's decision was based on an apparent division in Westminster that she believes, if solved, will "guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead" following the shock result of the EU referendum last year.
Before the UK's decision to leave the EU, it was warned that a Brexit outcome could lead to a shallow recession and an unemployment rate rise of up to 6.5%, the equivalent of roughly 500,000 jobs. Experts feared uncertainty over EU environmental policies and delays to the government's clean energy plans could mean that employment in the green economy could be particularly hard hit.
However, the economy since Brexit has seen high rates of consumer confidence, record numbers of jobs and economic growth that exceeded all previous expectations. Recent stats confirmed the low carbon and renewable energy sector now employs close to a quarter of a million people.
But the general election in June may change this. Samantha Hurley, Operations Director at the Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), commented that a snap election would be an ideal opportunity to push skills, jobs, and recruitment up the political agenda with regards to both UK perspectives and the ongoing Brexit negotiations. So far, the groundwork for the negotiations has tended to focus on trade deals in goods rather and services, and as such many in the recruitment space are still anxious to find out how the next chosen Government will firm up strategies surrounding skills and employment opportunities and bring the professional labour market into the spotlight. Green businesses are particularly keen to see a clear and ambitious strategy for tackling skills gaps that are already emerging in some key sectors, even before any post-Brexit changes to immigration rules come into effect.
On the official Conservative Party website, one of the promises of their long-term economic plan is to create more jobs. They claim that by dismissing Labour's "dated policies" of higher taxes and stricter regulations that cost business owners millions, they will cut the jobs tax, cut corporation tax, remove unnecessary red tape and invest in a better infrastructure. These things, they say, will create more UK jobs. In contrast, the draft of Labour Party's 2017 Manifesto, which was leaked on May 11th, highlighted a ban on "zero hours" contracts and a strengthening of trade union rights. In regards to the job market, Labour promises to create a million jobs by investing £500bn in the UK infrastructure, with a particular focus on low carbon infrastraucture, and launch a push for stronger employment rights.
What we don't and can't yet know is how the outcome of the general election will impact the Brexit negotiations, immigration policies, employment law, and the green jobs market. Major changes in any of these areas could lead to huge implications for the UK and the rest of the EU, particularly in certain industries that could lead to a decrease in the amount of jobs available.
At the same time, however, the election's outcome might help to bring a clearer understanding of what EU workers living in the UK should expect. There are still many green businesses that have no idea about whether members of their workforce will be legally able to continue to reside in the UK and if they are required to leave, how employers will replace them. Yes, both Brexit and the snap election have created much uncertainty in the short-term but come the 9th June, recruiters and employers will have a better understanding of where the UK green jobs market is heading. No matter the outcome, it's looking more and more unlikely that result of the referendum will be overturned, meaning the government will have to seize the opportunity to place more emphasis on skills and training programmes that will strengthen the country's workforce. Even in today's uncertain economy, UK sites such as CV-Library offer career advice for those seeking employment or for anyone looking for their next career move into exciting growth industries such as the renewables or low carbon infrastructure space.
With the impact of Brexit and the election on the green jobs market hard to predict recruiters, employers, and employees would be advised to keep themselves abreast of the fast-moving news cycle.