von Alina Pogoda, Polish Green Network

Miners´ prospects for employment after coal

The latest report of the Institute for Structural Research (IBS) indicates that in Silesia there will be a shortage of people to work in the coming years. Therefore, the decarbonisation process should start as soon as possible so that miners can fill this gap.

The Institute for Structural Research (IBS) published a report analyzing the socio-economic context of decarbonisation in Poland in 1990-2019 and presenting scenarios of employment changes in the mining industry in 2019-2050. It is a response to the common fear of transformation among miners, which was prepared and carried out incorrectly twenty years ago – in a violent manner, on the basis of shock therapy.

The report shows that now miners have a better chance of finding a job after the closure of mining plants than 20 years ago. From the early 1990s to the mid 2000s, those who left jobs had limited prospects of finding a new job. The reason was the widespread reduction in the number of jobs, due to the fact that many young but poorly educated people sought employment in the shrinking labor market. Since 2010, there has been an increase in the number of jobs in industries such as industrial processing and construction, and a smaller inflow of people to the labor market is clearly visible. This makes the chances of employment among miners much greater.

The report indicates that according to the decarbonisation plan according to the Polish Energy Policy 2040, by 2030, 14,000 hard coal mining workers must quit their jobs. From 2026, the demand for labor in Silesia is to exceed the supply and every year there will be a shortage of approx. 20 thousand jobs on the labor market. This is an optimistic forecast, in particular for young miners who should remain professionally active and will look for retraining programs that meet their expectations.

IBS proposes three recommendations which, when implemented together, will facilitate the reduction of employment in the hard coal mining industry. The first is to suspend hiring new employees in order not to increase the number of people who will need support in changing their profession in the future. It is also necessary to relocate miners who want to work up to their retirement age to the mines producing coking coal. On the other hand, younger miners should be re-qualified to work in industries such as construction and automotive. The third solution is to provide training to improve the qualifications of miners in the sector, in order to increase the number of engineering and technical staff that will be necessary in the process of mine closure.

The results of the IBS research may give hope for the decommissioning of the coal sector without the risk of huge unemployment among former miners. It is important that the jobs forecast are actually created and that they constitute an attractive alternative for people leaving the coal sector.

Alina Pogoda, mining and geology engineer, Just Transition Specialist, Polish Green Network

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