For one of our viewers Europe’s need for extra labour in a time of high unemployment is something of a conundrum. Carmen in Madrid asks: “In the debate over immigration it’s often said that EU countries need more workers. How is that possible when we have such high unemployment rates?”
Michelle Leigton of the International Labour Organisation responds: “The answer is that Europe is facing a declining (ageing) labour force. And actually, it is going to lose about 22 million people over the next two decades.
“A declining labour force means that businesses can’t be as productive or as competitive. But another reason that businesses are often saying that they experience labour shortages, even when there is high unemployment, is that there are not enough people to match to the right job for their skill level.
An interesting report, that the ILO issued last autumn identified quite surprisingly that somewhere between 25% and 45% of all workers in Europe, depending on the country, are not matched well to the skill level required in their job.
This creates not only dissatisfaction and a high turnover, but it makes business less productive and more costly.
“But one way to ensure that there is better job matching and skills available in the labour force in Europe, would be to improve vocational training programme and tie those to labour market shortages, and estimate in the future where those needs are, in which sectors those needs will be most important for the market to fill.
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