The circular economy is a concept that aims to reduce waste and promote sustainability by reusing, recycling and repairing products.

It has been estimated that this approach could create millions of new jobs, especially in developing countries where most of the waste management and recycling activities take place. However, a new report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Bank and Circle Economy reveals a lack of research on how the circular economy affects decent work and vulnerable populations in the Global South.

The report, titled Decent Work in the Circular Economy: An Overview of the Existing Evidence Base, analyzes the existing literature on the topic and identifies several gaps and challenges.

For instance, most of the studies focus on countries in the Global North, while regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are underrepresented.

There is no doubt that a circular economy can help us reach our climate goals. However, the links between circularity and the achievement of social and economic progress remain overlooked

Alette van Leur, Director of the Sectoral Policies Department of the ILO.

Moreover, most of the research concentrates on formal and regulated work, while ignoring the informal economy where 73 per cent of workers in low-income countries are employed.

Thailand is one of the countries that is embracing the circular economy, a model that aims to reduce waste and pollution by reusing and recycling materials. According to a recent report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Thailand could generate up to 1.5 million new jobs and save $8 billion in material costs by 2030 if it adopts circular economy practices.

Some of the sectors that could benefit from this transition are agriculture, construction, textiles and electronics. The report also highlights the environmental and social benefits of circular economy, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving resource efficiency and enhancing well-being.

The report also finds that while job creation is often highlighted as a benefit of the circular economy, job quality is largely overlooked. Issues such as working conditions, wages, health and safety, social protection and workers’ rights are rarely addressed in the literature. The report calls for more research that examines whether and how a circular economy can improve the lives of workers and communities in low-income countries.

The report concludes that a circular economy can offer significant opportunities for sustainable development and climate action, but it also requires informed policies that promote both environmental and social goals.

The ILO, the World Bank and Circle Economy urge researchers, policymakers and practitioners to collaborate and share knowledge on how to achieve decent work in the circular economy.

How the Circular Economy Could Generate Millions of Job Opportunities

The circular economy is a type of economic system or model that minimizes waste and pollution, maximizes resource efficiency and reuse, and designs products and services to last longer or be recycled. It aims to create value and sustainability at different levels and to use renewable energy sources.

It involves sharing, leasing, repairing, refurbishing, and recovering materials and products as long as possible. It targets zero waste and emission throughout materials lifecycles and returns them to either an industrial process or the environment in a safe way.

Benefits of the Circular Economy

The circular economy is not only good for the environment, but also for the economy and society. According to a report by Accenture, the circular economy could unlock $4.5 trillion of value by 2030. Some of the benefits of the circular economy are:

  • It reduces the dependency on finite raw materials and lowers the risk of price volatility and supply disruptions.
  • It lowers the greenhouse gas emissions and mitigates the impacts of climate change.
  • It creates new business opportunities and markets for circular products and services.
  • It fosters innovation and competitiveness in various sectors and industries.
  • It enhances social inclusion and well-being by providing access to affordable and durable goods.

Job Opportunities in the Circular Economy

One of the most important benefits of the circular economy is that it can generate millions of job opportunities across different sectors and regions. According to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the circular economy could create 700,000 net additional jobs in Europe by 2030. Another study by Circle Economy estimated that the circular economy could create 6.3 million jobs globally by 2030. Some of the sectors that could benefit from the circular economy are:

  • Manufacturing: The circular economy could create jobs in designing, producing, repairing, remanufacturing, and recycling products that are durable, modular, and recyclable .
  • Services: The circular economy could create jobs in providing services that extend the lifespan of products, such as leasing, sharing, maintenance, refurbishment, and reuse .
  • Agriculture: The circular economy could create jobs in applying regenerative practices that enhance soil health, biodiversity, and water quality, such as organic farming, agroforestry, and composting .
  • Construction: The circular economy could create jobs in building with renewable and recycled materials, optimizing space utilization, and deconstructing buildings for reuse or recycling .
  • Energy: The circular economy could create jobs in generating and distributing renewable energy from solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and waste sources.

Circular economy could generate millions of job opportunities

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that aims to minimize waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. By doing so, it can help tackle global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and resource scarcity.

How does the circular economy work?

As one of the pioneers of the circular economy concept, Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines it as “a systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.”

In a circular economy, products are designed to last longer, be repaired, reused, and recycled. Materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible, reducing the need for extracting new resources and creating waste. This can save costs, create value, and benefit the environment.

According to the World Economic Forum, the circular economy could unlock $4.5 trillion of value by 2030. It could also create millions of job opportunities in sectors such as manufacturing, services, agriculture, and renewable energy.

What are some examples of the circular economy?

There are many examples of circular economy practices around the world. For instance:

  • Sharing platforms allow people to access goods and services without owning them, such as car-sharing, bike-sharing, or peer-to-peer lending.
  • Product-as-a-service models offer products as a service rather than a product, such as leasing, renting, or pay-per-use schemes.
  • Product life extension models extend the lifespan of products through maintenance, repair, refurbishment, or remanufacturing.
  • Recycling and composting transform waste materials into new products or organic fertilizers.

The foundation also states that “we must transform every element of our take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet.”

The circular economy is a promising way to transform our current linear economy into one that is more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive. It can bring multiple benefits for the environment, the economy, and society. It can also create millions of job opportunities in various sectors and regions. The circular economy is not a utopian vision, but a realistic and achievable goal that requires collaboration among all stakeholders: consumers, businesses, policymakers, educators, researchers, and civil society.

About the author


Thailand Business News covers the latest economic, market, investment, real-estate and financial news from Thailand and Asean. It also features topics such as tourism, stocks, banking, aviation, property, and more.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Get notified of our weekly selection of news

You May Also Like

Asia’s heat wave worsens as Russia’s war in Ukraine lingers

As a heat wave scorches Asia, many countries are ramping up their use of coal to meet energy demands, reversing years of progress in transitioning to cleaner fuels. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has also disrupted the LNG market, causing global shortages and price hikes.

Songkran prospects might be dampened by Thailand’s air quality

The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented Thailand from celebrating its famous New Year celebrations for the past three years and expectations are running high among businesses.

Green Hydrogen: A New Frontier for Thailand and Saudi Arabia

The investment is part of PTT’s net-zero strategy, which aligns with the Thai government’s targets of carbon neutrality by 2050 and net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2065