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Australia's surprising top Green status and why it's in peril

London: An analysis of "green jobs" in five advanced economies ranks Australia as number one in terms of opportunity but the same data shows Australia at the bottom when it comes to job-seeker interest.

The study, which also ranked the top five green jobs in each country over 2016, shows that "Green Army participant" ranked number three in Australia in terms of job postings. And industry sources said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's decision to scrap the Green Army program could undermine Australia's favourable ranking in terms of green job opportunity.

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The Green Army, a pet policy of former prime minister Tony Abbott, will wind up in June after it was scrapped by Mr Abbott's successor - Malcolm Turnbull - in last year's budget update.

The research was conducted by global job search company Indeed ahead of Earth Day on Saturday and analysed the market for green jobs in five English-speaking countries: Australia, Britain, the United States, Canada and Ireland. 

Australia came up number one when it cames to the concentration of green jobs and opportunity. But job seeker interest in green jobs did not match the opportunity, with Australia coming last.

Green jobs are any that protect or restore the environment and can be found across a wide range of industries, including manufacturing, renewable energy and recycling.  

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Chris McDonald from Indeed said Australia had "led the way" in fostering green jobs but this was not matched by job seeker interest.

"Globally, green jobs are a growing source of opportunity and, of the countries studied, Australia led the way in terms of green job concentration levels.

"There is however an interesting anomaly: when compared to the other markets, Australia appears to face a greater challenge in attracting job seekers to green jobs.

"The study suggests a mismatch in green job opportunities and job seeker interest compared to the likes of Canada and the United States," he said.

Based on the data, the green job concentration levels suggest that in Australia there are around 6.8 jobs per thousand compared to around four in the US. 

However, the research shows that job seekers are 1.7 times more interested in green jobs in the US compared to jobs overall, whereas in Australia job seekers are less likely to seek out green jobs (at a rate of 0.9) compared to regular jobs.

In 2016, "Green Army participant" was the third most common green job posting. Fairfax Media understands job seeker interest effectively halved overnight when it was slated for closure in December 2016. By contrast, searches for green jobs peaked in August 2015.

The Green Army is a taxpayer funded program that paid young Australians aged 17 to 24 up to $996.60 per fortnight based on a 30 hour week. It was hoped up to 15,000 young unemployed people would make use of the scheme where they work in teams for six months on projects such as cleaning up waterways and clearing weeds. But the program was scrapped in the budget update last year to save $350 million, despite the Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg describing the policy as having been "very successful".

However the Green Army's website still prominently calls for potential applicants to register their interest and gives no clear indication on the homepage that the program is to be wound down in just a few months. 

Green Army vacancies are still being advertised as the government agreed to honour existing project contracts. A current search on Indeed's Australian site showed 25 job postings for Green Army participants.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott expressed his disappointment at the scrapping of his pet policy at the time.

"I'm dismayed by reports the Green Army may be scrapped," Mr Abbott wrote on Facebook.

"Not only has it been good for grass roots conservation but it got unemployed people working too.

"It's a bad principle to axe your own policy for the Greens policy because it means that their priorities are more important than ours.

"That would hardly be a smart move for a centre right government." Of the savings, $100 million was diverted to Landcare projects as part of a deal the Coalition struck with the Greens. Tasmanian senator Eric Abetz labelled the decision to scrap Green Army projects as "unpalatable". 

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