Coal Industry Remains The Most Desirable Employer Due To Job Security

By Outlook Planet Desk April 18, 2023

85% Of Those active in the Jharkhand coal ecosystem prefer reskilling programmes as India moves towards energy transition

Coal Industry Remains The Most Desirable Employer Due To Job Security
Increasing the use of renewable energy while allowing coal use to decline will lower carbon emissions. DepositPhotos

According to a new study, one in three coal miners in Jharkhand choose agriculture as a substitute for coal after India switches to clean energy sources to achieve its Net Zero ambitions. The first-of-its-kind perception study, "Livelihood Opportunities for a Just Transition in Jharkhand," was published at an event in Kolkata called "Deconstructing The Opportunities In Alternative Livelihoods To Support A Just Transition." India's G20 chairmanship served as the backdrop for the event's planning. The alternative livelihoods report sought to offer suggestions on how India may make the transition to a more sustainable economy in a way that would be fair to all stakeholders and inclusive.

The primary goal of the survey was to investigate the kinds of livelihood prospects that will enable a fair energy transition in Jharkhand in the event that coal plants are gradually phased out and renewable energy sources are increased in accordance with government plans and targets.

6,000 coal miners participated in the study, which was done in 5 districts: Ranchi, Dhanbad, Ramgarh, Chatra, and Bokaro. Among them were 26 policy and sectoral specialists, 2,000 unorganised employees, 4,000 workers from the organised sector (thermal power plants and mines), and 4,000 workers from the organised sector. Its goal was to comprehend the difficulties and possibilities of moving away from coal and towards sustainable energy sources in a coal-rich state like Jharkhand. 

As the state moves away from coal, at least 20 focus group discussions (FGDs) were held among the respondents in an effort to highlight the voice of the workers.

Findings reveal that despite the fact that 60% of respondents did not have employment contracts, the coal industry remains the most desirable employer due to job security and the dearth of alternatives with salaries on par with its own.

Six out of ten employees are unaware of the possibility of mines being closed down in the future.

94% of respondents said they had not taken part in any training programmes, revealing a significant hole in any upskilling planned.

85% of people indicated a willingness to participate in skill-upgrading or reskilling programmes.

Only 24% of the 6% of people who obtained any training for jobs not in the coal industry were active in training for the renewable energy industry.

In terms of alternative livelihoods, 32% of respondents chose agriculture and related sectors as their first preference, 30% chose the manufacturing sector as their second preference, 27% chose other mineral mining as their third preference, 29% chose construction as their fourth preference, 26% as their fifth preference, education take their sixth preference, and service as their seventh preference out of a total of six options. 

The survey observes that 60% of the respondents who are supply side mine workers and 90% thermal power plant workers were unaware of coal mine or power plant closures. 

“The findings of the report are crucial in shaping policy decisions on a just transition plan for Jharkhand and other coal-rich states in India. It is imperative that India's commitment to phasing down coal is complemented by policy measures that ensure the welfare of the workers and communities most affected by this transition,” said Amit Kumar, Associate Partner, Ernst & Young LLP

Over one-fourth (26%) of all coal mines in India's coal-producing region, Jharkhand, have 113 operating mines that produce more than 115 MT of coal annually. 38% of all such jobs in India are supported by the coal mining industry in Jharkhand, which provides close to 300,000 direct coal mining jobs. In order to fulfill its expanding energy needs, India must emphasise the development of renewable energy sources.

"With a commitment to reach Net Zero by 2070, abatement of coal does become an important consideration. Equally important is to undertake scientific mine closure, ensure additional power needs are met by renewables, and take the socio-economic parameters of communities in account as and when mines are shut. The focus is on India this year, and as the hosts of the G20, there is an opening to seize the momentum and demonstrate that India’s energy future is dominated by clean energy. This report establishes the need for skill development to help local communities tide over the transition to clean energy systems. It offers recommendations to confidently embrace the policy level, sectoral level, and individual level changes the energy transition goals will bring." says Aarti Khosla, Director, Climate Trends

India has established a goal to reach Net Zero by 2070 and is concentrating on a "coal phase down" strategy. However, a phase-down of coal threatens the livelihoods of millions of employees and communities throughout many states in the nation who depend on the coal sector for their sustenance and livelihoods. States with numerous mines and high levels of coal output, like Jharkhand, will be more affected by this phase-down. 

The report lists a number of issues on various levels, including growing reliance on the coal industry for livelihoods in the near future (until 2030), the closure of small and underground mines, ignorance of coal mine closure timelines, and a lack of funding for the energy transition and alternative livelihoods. The report highlights challenges in a long-term scenario (beyond 2030), including lost tax revenue for the government, forced and economic migration, a lack of opportunities to hire workers who are displaced, job losses in related industries, a lack of safety nets for non-contractual workers, a lack of financial security, low skill levels, and resistance to behaviour change.