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Skills and jobs experts call for action now

04/02/2010 Skills and jobs experts call for action now

Immediate action is required to solve Europe's skills deficiencies and give Europeans a better chance of labour market success in the future, says an independent expert report published by the European Commission on February 4, 2010.

The nature of the problem:

The report - 'New Skills for New Jobs: Action Now' - stresses the need to provide the right incentives for people to upgrade their skills, to better link education, training and work, to develop the right mix of skills, and to better anticipate those skills needed in the future. Today's report is one of the major outputs of the European Commission's 'New Skills for New Jobs' agenda and was presented at a high level conference in Brussels on February 4, 2010.

  • At present, one in three Europeans of working age has few or no formal qualifications, making them 40% less likely to be employed than those with medium level qualifications.
  • The employment rate for those with high skill levels across the EU as a whole is 84%, for medium skill levels 70%, and for low skill levels it stands at 49%.
  • Those with low qualifications are also much less likely to upgrade their skills and follow lifelong learning.
  • Meanwhile, companies that train their staff are 2.5 times less likely to go out of business compared to those that do not, and
  • Education systems that provide adequate skills for all could increase GDP by as much as 10% in the long term.

Today's expert report provides concrete recommendations on how to solve Europe's skills deficiencies and is addressed to decision-makers at EU and national level, businesses, trade unions, education and training providers and employment services.

It calls for action in four main areas:

  1. Provide better incentives for employers and individuals to up-skill, and investment in skills must be significant, smart and not just financial;
  2. Open up the worlds of education and training by making education and training institutions more innovative and responsive to both learners' and employers' needs, and by developing relevant qualifications that focus on concrete learning outcomes;
  3. Offer a better mix of skills that is more suited to labour market needs;
  4. Better anticipation of future skill needs

The view of the experts is that each of these areas is inter-linked, and therefore all actions must be addressed together. Moreover, it is not the responsibility of just one stakeholder, but a concerted effort is needed from all involved.

The report points to the inconvenient truth that, despite progress in recent years, much of Europe is still not sufficiently skilled. Nearly one third of Europe’s population aged 25-64 have no, or only low, formal qualifications and only one quarter have high level qualifications. And those who are skilled do not always have the right skills that employers are looking for, thus creating mismatches on the labour market. A better mix of transversal and specific skills is required.

The problem is made more urgent by rising unemployment and the demographic challenges.

However, some 80 million job opportunities are expected to arise in the next decade, according to the latest projections by CEDEFOP, the EU's reference centre for vocational education and training. Among these jobs, almost 7 million jobs will be new, and most of those will require a more highly-skilled workforce.