This paper examines the opportunities and risks of employment, skills and education that are related to a circular economy (CE) in the United States. Combining occupational skills and education data with a newly introduced definition of CE employment, we compare circular- and non-circular-oriented occupations in terms of skills and abilities. Building on the seminal paper by Consoli et al. (2016) and looking at all occupations within a broad range of CE-related industries, we detect and address heterogeneity in job requirements within the CE. We distinguish core activities within CE employment – focusing on renewable energy, repair, re-use of materials and the sharing economy – from enabling activities, which are focused on management, design, and ICT-applicability of the CE. While core CE-activities generally require more manual and technological skills, enabling activities, in contrast, require more complex cognitive skills. Neither core nor enabling CE sectors, however, are entirely cohesive in terms of skill requirements. Part of the education and skills demand is identifiably driven by ‘circularity’, particularly with regard to technical skills for the core of the CE. This may require specific education and training programs for future development of the CE.

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Research Policy

Burger, M., Stavropoulos, S., Ramkumar, S. (Shyaam), Dufourmont, J. (Joke), & van Oort, F. (2018). The heterogeneous skill-base of circular economy employment. Research Policy. doi:10.1016/j.respol.2018.08.015