Peace Hub is calling on the UK Foreign Office to embargo arms sales to repressive regimes. But what about the jobs that arms manufacture creates in the UK? Does Peace Hub want these people to be left unemployed?
These are common questions, and perfectly understandable in the current climate of austerity and poor job opportunities. The good news is that people currently employed in the arms trade, could work in renewable energy instead.
The truth is that we can have the jobs without the arms.
Arms manufacturers receive huge amounts of public money – more per employee than any other private industry. So it’s not arms manufacture that creates jobs – but government subsidy. And that subsidy could be spent on other areas of engineering which do good, rather than harm.
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges currently facing our society – we will need more renewable energy to tackle it. Demand for the renewables industry energy is growing – and it needs workers with the same skills as those currently employed making arms. If we moved public money from arms to renewables we could have the jobs and help to tackle climate change at the same time.
Hull provides a perfect example: the arms trade there has traditionally provided local jobs, but has recently gone into decline: 900 jobs were lost from BAE systems in 2011. A new renewables plant is being built near Hull by Siemens which could provide 1000 new jobs. By moving government subsidy to renewables, this could be replicated across the UK.