Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, says Wales can be world-leading in a fair response to COVID-19 that creates good, green jobs and skills and improves life for future generations 

For International Women’s Day, I asked 10 women to share their hopes for future generations of women in Wales. 

In a video, they set out their asks from a future Wales, including equality for women including trans women, better representation of ethnic minorities in positions of influence and improved access to the green spaces that have been so crucial during the pandemic. 

In my role as ‘guardian’ of future generations, under the pioneering Well-being of Future Generations Act, I’ve co-authored new research into the challenges and opportunities for Wales in a green recovery from COVID-19 that also tackles climate change fairly. 

The research, with New Economics Foundation (NEF) and Wales TUC, and released in the same month as International Women’s Day, finds there’s much to be done to make the so-called green and just recovery a reality. 

Wales TUC suggests 60,000 green jobs could be created in Wales if we invest properly in the green economy. What are green jobs? The definition is wide and varying and can be anything from home insulation, reforestation and natural flood defence work, to forest schooling. There are new and exciting opportunities if we take them. 

Covid-19 has been devastating, but we can learn from it and pave our way out of it in a way that allows future generations to thrive. 

Welsh Government, which declared a climate emergency in 2019, has committed to a legal duty to cut carbon emissions by 100 per cent by 2050. This rapid shift can create new jobs, improve people’s health, better connect communities, restore our natural environment and help protect people’s homes against the impacts of climate change, such as flooding. 

But we have to make sure there’s an equal pipeline to this green revolution. It’s a call backed by not just me, but Wales TUC, NEF, Chwarae Teg, Children in Wales, Royal College of Physicians, WEN (Women’s Equality Network) Wales and RNIB Wales. 

Covid-19 has highlighted inequalities in health and employment. The unemployment rate nationally has reached 8.5 per cent for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic workers compared with 4.5 per centfor white workers.  

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Those disproportionately affected by the pandemic and climate change must be included and actively supported to access the skills and opportunities that will come from the transition to net zero. Women, including young women, young Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic women, disabled women, and older women attempting to re-enter work or change sector have been hit the hardest. 

Yet we found females and people of non-white ethnicity are under-represented in green industries, with traditional green jobs currently held in the majority by white males. 

In construction of buildings (like social housing and greening homes) 27 per cent of the workforce is female and 5 per cent non-white ethnicity. In agriculture, forestry and related trades, 25 per cent are female and 0.76 per cent non-white ethnicity. In electrical installation, 29 per cent of the workforce is female and 6 per cent of non-white ethnicity. 

My Manifesto for the Future asked all parties to include progressive policies tackling green inequities, if Wales is to achieve an equal pathway to net zero, and the “just transition” commitment under the Paris Agreement on climate change.  

It has recommendations for creating a more equal Wales, one of the Act’s goals, set in law, like a National Wellness System, which could include the introduction of a basic income pilot to take action on poverty and in-work poverty being a barrier to good health, and making sure people have access to green spaces within 300m (around four minutes) from their homes, and 20-minute (walkable) neighbourhoods. A new poll finds a basic income pilot is supported by 69 per cent of people in Wales. 

The path to net zero holds many opportunities.  

But as we respond to the immediate needs of the pandemic, we have to stop inequalities worsening in the future, and keep challenging the structural barriers currently in place for people already disadvantaged, targeting those furthest from the labour market - or the green recovery will be a whitewash. 

Our Well-being of Future Generations Act is driving change – from £75m to get more people cycling and walking, and a plan to create better public transport and active travel instead of a £1.4bn motorway, to a new curriculum with well-being at the heart of how we educate our children, doctors prescribing community connectors to deal with the causes of wider health problems and an increase in funding on the climate emergency. 

Welsh Government must now keep up the pace and use the Act to make every policy and spending decision work harder for everyone in Wales now and in the future.