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New skills = better jobs - 17/12/2008

Young woman with pencil reading job ads in newspaper © EC

Report finds that most EU workers will soon be employed in the service industry.

By 2020, three out of four people employed in the EU will be working in services like insurance, healthcare, retail and education, according to a new report on the future of the European job market.

The report also says that more jobs will require higher education and advanced skills in addition to generic analytical, communication, computer and teamwork abilities. At the same time, demand is expected to increase for some jobs requiring few or no skills.

European government leaders commissioned the report in an effort to prepare the workforce for tomorrow’s jobs and avoid some of today’s mismatches. Currently many industries have a hard time filling positions in Europe, especially those requiring high-level skills.  Yet it is not uncommon to find very educated people doing low-level jobs, showing that knowledge does not always equate to more skills.

The commission has announced plans to monitor the job market more closely in light of the economic crisis and to provide regular updates on anticipated developments. Other proposals seek to promote job counselling and worker mobility and to improve understanding of the global job market through contacts with international organisations and countries including the US, Canada and China. A group of experts will be set up in 2009 to support these efforts.

The European job market is changing rapidly due to new technology, globalisation, the ageing population and the transition to a low-carbon economy. It continues to shift from agriculture and traditional manufacturing towards services and knowledge-based jobs. Workers' ability to adapt is critical to growth and social harmony.

Overall, about 20 million jobs are expected to be created in the EU between 2006 and 2020. An additional 80 million are expected as baby boomers retire and the working-age population shrinks. Workforce shortages are expected, even in sectors that are shedding jobs. The commission noted that the economic crisis makes employment forecasts difficult and the numbers could change.

A plan to foster cooperation between EU countries on reforming education and training is also on the table.

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