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30th Jan 2023

Labour shortage prompts EU appeal for non-EU workers

  • The EU is working to reduce the unfilled vacancy rate among the 27 member states (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)
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The European Commission is hoping to mitigate regional and industry-specific labour shortages with the launch of a new mechanism to encourage migration from third countries to the European Union.

The commissioners for home affairs and employment and social rights announced on Tuesday (10 January) a Labour Migration Platform, which will bring together experts in both policies to build bridges between migration and employment to address this challenge faced by European economies.

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"Many companies in the EU struggle to find workers with the skills they need," commissioner Nicolas Schmit said on Tuesday.

The Digital Economy and Society Index shows that four-out-of-10 adults who work in Europe lack basic digital skills. Moreover, in 2021, 28 occupations, ranging from construction and healthcare to engineering and information technology, suffered from shortages (ELA, 2021).

"Labour shortages have a catastrophic cost. Of course an economic cost. In Germany alone, €86bn per year in lost output," home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said in her speech at the launch.

The EU is working to reduce the unfilled vacancy rate among the 27 member states, and combat the working-age labour force, which is projected to fall from 70 percent to 56-54 percent by 2070, according to the latest Eurostat figures.

"Today, two working people support somebody who doesn't work. But in 2070 it will be one-to-one, if we don't do anything about it," Johansson said.

The Labour Migration Platform aims to ensure that Europe does not lag behind in the battle to attract and retain talent, by improving recognition of qualifications, encouraging circular migration, and by designing an EU talent pool where European companies could find their skilled candidates.

"The new Labour Migration Platform allows us to build on member states' experiences and best practices in labour migration and make use of the expertise of the migration and employment sectors," added Johansson.

The discussion platform meets on a regular basis, exchanging views and best practices. The platform pools the efforts of the Commission and migration and employment policy experts from EU member states to foster mutual and close cooperation between these areas, aiming to make progress in reducing worker shortages.

The platform also supports initiatives such as the future EU Talent Pool, which is designed to match European employers who are unable to fill their vacancies with jobseekers from third countries, or the EU Talent Partnership. The latter would focus on countries such as Tunisia or Egypt, where the initiative would offer these jobseekers language courses or vocational training before they even arrive in the EU.

While not the only measure proposed on Tuesday, channeling legal migration to regions and occupations suffering skills shortages is key to maintaining the competitiveness of European economies in the future.

"To be among the winners in the global race for talent, we need to continuously develop and adapt EU legal migration policy", Johansson stated.

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