Social aspects of biodiversity: creating jobs and sustaining people

A new EU-commissioned report has investigated the social value of biodiversity conservation, particularly in terms of its links to employment. It estimates that 35% of jobs in developing countries and 7% of jobs in the EU are dependent on ecosystem services.

Venice/Brussels, 2/12/11 - The value of biodiversity and its related ecosystems is becoming increasingly recognised in policy. Biodiversity is important in supporting vital ecosystem services (ES) such as provision of clean water, but can also provide social benefits, such as improved employment. The report focussed on the impact of biodiversity on employment and the value of biodiversity and the services provided for vulnerable rural people.

Jobs are linked to biodiversity directly through the employment of people to manage and conserve protected areas and also through employment in biodiversity sustained sectors, such as in fisheries, forestry and agriculture. There is also an indirect link to ES provision, such as water provision and purification, as more people are employed in water management and related industries.

The number of jobs attributed to biodiversity and ES actions is significant both in the EU and developing countries. However, developing countries are considerably more dependent on ES (927 million, or 35% of jobs) compared to the EU (14.6 million or 7% of jobs). In addition, the type of employment linked to biodiversity differs. In the EU, biodiversity-related employment is often highly skilled, whereas in developing countries, it tends to be low skilled and poorly paid, particularly in primary industries such as agriculture and fishing.

On the basis of its findings the report made several recommendations to improve the integration of biodiversity and its social aspects into relevant policies. It suggested greater efforts to raise awareness among stakeholders and the wider public about the benefits of biodiversity and ES. Alongside this should be support for regional approaches to pay for ES and an integration of an ES based approach into development aid policies to ensure local involvement.
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