Employment

Industrial workers in Wales could be given free cash to help with green jobs transition

People in jobs set to be lost in the transition to net zero could be supported by a basic income, the Welsh government has said.

Cardiff Bay with old coal hoists in the water

The remains of coal hoists can still be seen in Cardiff Bay, where 13 million tons of coal were once exported each year. Image: Richard Szwejkowski / Flickr

The Welsh government has backed calls for a basic income for those working in industries such as oil, gas and steel, to help with the transition into green jobs.

The motion called for the current Welsh government’s Basic Income pilot for care leavers to be extended to workers employed in carbon intensive industries so they have a safety net when their jobs are phased out.

The Welsh government has committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, a transition that would require extreme scaling back of the country’s industrial sector such as the Port Talbot steelworks.

“The question is how we support the nearly 220,000 jobs across Wales in industries that will, as a consequence of our transition to net zero, inevitably cease to exist in the future?” Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds asked the Senedd.

“We cannot be bystanders while workers and communities undergo the most rapid and significant change in decades.” 

Last month the Welsh government launched its universal basic income trial for care leavers, who have now received their first monthly no-strings-attached payment of  £1,600. 

The pilot will run for two years with 500 participants aged 18 who have left Wales’ care system. 

Universal basic income is a regular payment given to everyone in society to create a minimum income floor, but chose care leavers to be the subjects of the UBI trial due their greater risk of homelessness and mental health problems.

Responding to the Senedd’s vote in favour of extending the pilot to those working in Wales’ heavy industries, Jonathan Rhys Williams of UBI Lab Wales said: “Once again, Wales is leading the way in the basic income debate. By inviting workers in heavy industry to join the ongoing basic income pilot, the Welsh government can show the world how this policy can play a central role in a just transition to net-zero.”

Sophie Howe, future generations commissioner for Wales, said: “Those people who are most likely to be affected by the climate crisis are often the most vulnerable in our societies.

“It’s important that we look holistically at decarbonisation and understand how, along with its great benefits, it can be achieved without negative impact on certain communities. For workers in carbon intensive industries, a universal basic income would provide the security and continuity needed to help these workers develop new skills, enabling them to take up opportunities in new sectors.”

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