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Working time and energy consumption in global production networks: the roles of the EU, China and USA
Most of the objects we consume are products of global production networks, where specific functions and manufacturing processes are performed in each region and a new international division of labor emerges. This has important implications for the geographic localization of energy consumption and CO2 emissions. If these dependences at the global level are not considered, national policies aimed at meeting the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris agreement become meaningless and may encourage carbon leakage and other kinds of externalization of environmental impacts. A clear understanding of the economic structure of countries and their role inside the world economy is a prerequisite for finding fair solutions to sustainability problems that go beyond technical innovation. This presentation is based on the results of two EU projects (EUFORIE and MAGIC) and aims to provide insight into the biophysical basis of production, consumption and trade of the European Union, China and the United States. In particular, we focus on working time and energy consumption by economic subsectors for the year 2011, in both absolute and per capita terms. The results are calculated via MRIO databases and Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) indicators: the energy metabolic rates (energy consumption per hour of work) and economic job productivity (value added per hour of work). The results show that the greater consumer per capita of both labour and energy is the USA, followed by the EU. About half of the amount of the labour time embodied in their consumption is carried out inside their borders, the other half outside. However, energy is consumed more locally in those regions. The growing machinery use substitutes human work, increasing the energy metabolic rates. China shows larger self-sufficiency, with a local consumption of 91% of working time and 87% of energy embodied in their consumption. On the other hand, they show different job allocation patterns. While China still maintains the greatest share of workforce in agriculture, USA and EU have it in the tertiary and quaternary sectors. This implies that they must import embodied work and energy in productive sectors (agriculture, mining and industry). An internalization of those economic activities would affect strongly the socio-economic structure of those societies, and move them away from their sustainability targets.