man embracing the corporate world

71% of people prioritize environmental protection over job creation

Yep, hard to believe isn’t it but a clear majority of the people in mature economies are concerned about the environment. Their intuition is telling them something that politicians don’t seem to get…

Observe politics in any capitalist economy and it will not be long before some politician or commentator mentions jobs.

Jobs is probably their most frequently uttered word after growth. The Canadians even had a Jobs and Growth Act passed in December 2012 by the Conservative government to implement its budget. 

The way jobs are talked about you would think it’s everyone’s preoccupation. And why not, everyone needs employment to progress and without a job life is challenging at best.

So the evidence of public opinion, summarised in a recent report by the Pew Research Center in the US, should come as a bit of a shock to our parliamentary friends.  

Surveys of around 1,500 people representative of the general public in each of 20 different countries with mature or emerging economies across Europe, the Americas, and the Asia-Pacific including Australia suggest that 71% of respondents would prioritize environmental protection while a quarter would prioritise job creation

graphic with 7 out of 10 siloettes couloured green

Not only have public priorities on environmental protection risen over time but the majority of people across all of the countries say they would prioritise protecting the environment even if it causes slower economic growth. 

Not a 50:50 split, the kind that pollsters say are too close to call, but three out of four people have got the message that there is an environmental challenge ahead of us and that something needs to be done about it even at the expense of job creation.

Here is the country breakdown from the Pew Research Centre.  

Infographic on the proportion of people prioritising environmental protection over jonb creation across countries

Now, perhaps the 70+% in favour are already in jobs. 

The average unemployment rate in mature economies is usually less than 10% meaning that only 10 in 100 are out of work. Easy enough to say look after the environment when you are in a stable job. 

If the survey was completed today after the COVID crisis has put a nasty shock to employment, the results might be different. 

Nevertheless, the rhetoric from the politicians is always jobs, jobs and more jobs through economic growth. They suppose this taps feelings of insecurity. 

Except it is a rupture of the environment that worries them.

What sustainably FED suggests…

Rhetoric can be quite insidious. By definition, it does not need evidence or to be based on facts, it can be whatever the purveyor wants.

It is time to stop listening to political rhetoric and hold leadership to account. Get them to listen to what the majority want and pay attention to facts.

When it comes to the protection of the environment the clear majority has very different priorities than we are led to believe.

Hero image modified from photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash


Mark is an ecology nerd who was cursed with an entrepreneurial gene and a big picture view making him a rare beast, uncomfortable in the ivory towers and the disconnected silos of the public service. Despite this he has made it through a 40+ year career as a scientist and for some unknown reason still likes to read scientific papers.

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