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Structural Change for a Post-Growth Economy: Investigating the Relationship between Embodied Energy Intensity and Labour Productivity

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Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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UK Energy Research Centre, Central House, 14 Upper Woburn Place, London WC1H 0NN, UK
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Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, Oxford University Centre for the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK
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Low Carbon Energy Research Group, School of Chemical and Process Engineering, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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Centre for Integrated Energy Research, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
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SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9SL, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2020, 12(3), 962; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030962
Received: 9 December 2019 / Revised: 10 January 2020 / Accepted: 13 January 2020 / Published: 29 January 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability)

Post-growth economists propose structural changes towards labour-intensive services, such as care or education, to make our economy more sustainable by providing meaningful work and reducing the environmentally damaging production of material goods. Our study investigates the assumption underlying such proposals. Using a multi-regional input-output model we compare the embodied energy intensity and embodied labour productivity across economic sectors in the UK and Germany between 1995 and 2011. We identify five labour-intensive service sectors, which combine low embodied energy intensity with low growth in embodied labour productivity. However, despite their lower embodied energy intensities, our results indicate that large structural changes towards these sectors would only lead to small reductions in energy footprints. Our results also suggest that labour-intensive service sectors in the UK have been characterised by higher rates of price inflation than other sectors. This supports suggestions from the literature that labour-intensive services face challenges from increasing relative prices and costs. We do not find similar results for Germany, which is the result of low overall growth in embodied labour productivity and prices. This highlights that structural change is closely associated with economic growth, which raises the question of how structural changes can be achieved in a non-growing economy. View Full-Text
Keywords: post-growth economics; degrowth; structural change; energy footprint; multiregional input-output databases post-growth economics; degrowth; structural change; energy footprint; multiregional input-output databases
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MDPI and ACS Style

Hardt, L.; Barrett, J.; Taylor, P.G.; Foxon, T.J. Structural Change for a Post-Growth Economy: Investigating the Relationship between Embodied Energy Intensity and Labour Productivity. Sustainability 2020, 12, 962. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030962

AMA Style

Hardt L, Barrett J, Taylor PG, Foxon TJ. Structural Change for a Post-Growth Economy: Investigating the Relationship between Embodied Energy Intensity and Labour Productivity. Sustainability. 2020; 12(3):962. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030962

Chicago/Turabian Style

Hardt, Lukas, John Barrett, Peter G. Taylor, and Timothy J. Foxon. 2020. "Structural Change for a Post-Growth Economy: Investigating the Relationship between Embodied Energy Intensity and Labour Productivity" Sustainability 12, no. 3: 962. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12030962

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