Plant-Based Diet Shift Could Bring 19 Million Jobs To Latin America

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Research has found that a net zero emissions future in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) will be primarily driven by a transition towards plant-based diets, which in turn will open up as many as 19 million new jobs in the region by 2030. Altogether, the researchers predict that if a carbon neutral economy is achieved in the LAC region, there could be as many as 22.5 new employment opportunities. 

The study, conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), has found that decarbonising the economy in the LAC region would bring 22.5 million new jobs by 2030, of which a large majority – 19 million – will be within plant-based industries if mass dietary changes are made.

“In the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, 7.5 million jobs are destroyed in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated by new employment opportunities,” said the study. 

These new employment opportunities in a decarbonised economy are primarily propelled by the mass shift away from meat-heavy diets to plant-based diets. Currently, the global livestock industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions and uses up almost 80% of the world’s agricultural land. 

In the transition to a net-zero carbon economy, 7.5 million jobs are destroyed in fossil fuel electricity, fossil fuel extraction, and animal-based food production. However, these lost jobs are more than compensated by new employment opportunities.

ILO & ADB, 2020.

Moving away from animal protein sources would mean the loss of 4.3 million jobs in the livestock, poultry, dairy and seafood sectors, but would be able to rake in 19 million more full-time equivalent jobs in plant-based agriculture while slashing the enormous emissions associated with animal agriculture. To compare, transforming the power sector will bring just 100,000 more renewable energy jobs. 

In addition, the authors noted that plant-based diets will bring a net positive impact for public health. “A shift to the production of high-value fruits and vegetables would provide greater opportunities for smallholders and family farmers as well as healthier diets for the population at large,” said the researchers. 

Recent scientific studies have backed the health benefits of plant-based diets, showing that high plant protein consumption is linked to lower mortality rates from coronary heart disease as well as a reduced risk of death from all other causes

Women will not benefit from job creation unless the current gender segregation by occupation is addressed.

ILO & ADB, 2020.

However, the ILO and IADB both warn that moving towards a sustainable economy must incorporate parallel efforts to improve social issues such as gender inequalities and labour rights

“More than 80% of the new jobs created by the decarbonization agenda will be in today’s male-dominated sectors,” wrote the authors. “Women will not benefit from job creation unless the current gender segregation by occupation is addressed.” 

“Policies must ensure that new jobs created in emerging sectors such as plant-based agriculture and renewable energy are decent jobs. Agricultural workers, and more generally workers in rural areas, often lack access to social protection,” they added. “It is time for a transition to a net-zero future that leaves no one behind.”


Lead image courtesy of N. Palmer / CIAT / Flickr.


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