By 2020, employment in the European Union (EU) is forecast to be back to its 2008 pre-crisis levels (Figure 1). But the overall picture masks differences between countries on the rate of job growth and the types of jobs that will be available, highlighting the varied challenges for vocational education and training systems across countries and sectors.

Cedefop – an EU agency that analyses training policies and the labour market – forecasts that employment, for example, in Italy, the Netherlands and Slovakia, should be back to pre-crisis levels by 2020. But in other countries such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Spain and Portugal, employment is expected to still be below pre-crisis levels by 2025. This contrasts with other Member States, including Germany, France, Austria, Sweden and the UK, where there are already more jobs than before the crisis began in 2008.


Figure 1 Past and forecast employment, EU (millions)

Source: Cedefop skills forecasts (2015)

Cedefop also forecasts that between now and 2025 business and other services will drive employment growth in most countries (Figure 2). But in Spain, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, for example, most job growth is forecast for the distribution and transport sector. Despite manufacturing jobs declining in the EU overall, small increases are foreseen for Ireland, Cyprus, Poland, Latvia, Slovakia and Finland.

Jobs on offer will also vary considerably across countries up to 2025. Cedefop predicts that around a third of job opportunities in Denmark and Poland will be for high-level professional jobs in science, engineering, healthcare, business and education. In Malta and Austria around a fifth of job opportunities are forecast to be for service and sales workers, while in Romania almost one vacancy in two will be for skilled agriculture and fisheries workers.

Figure 2 Employment trends by sector, average annual growth rate 2003-25, EU (%)

Source: Cedefop skills forecasts (2015)

Employers and jobs are also expected to be more demanding, requiring more high-level qualifications. In several countries including Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia at least half of all job opportunities up to 2025 are forecast to require high-level qualifications. But Cedefop foresees significant numbers of jobs requiring medium-level qualifications and most people in the EU will continue to be employed at this level.

Although a little smaller and older, the EU’s workforce will be better qualified. All Member States should reach, or be very close to, the EU’s benchmark of 40% of 30 to 34 year-olds having university-level qualifications by 2020. Numbers of people with no qualifications are also forecast to fall. Some 18 Member States have already reached the EU’s target of reducing the number of young people leaving the education and training system with low-level qualifications to below 10% by 2020.

Vocational education and training systems across countries and sectors are already being reformed, but will need to adapt further to seize the opportunities job growth may bring.

More in the Cedefop briefing note Europe’s uneven return to job growth

Notes to editors

  • Cedefop skill supply and demand forecasts up to 2025 take account of global economic developments up to October 2014. Forecasts assume a modest economic recovery will slowly increase confidence in the EU, leading to higher investment, consumer spending and exports. Inflation stays in target range and interest rates low, while higher tax revenues help governments reduce debt. Assumptions reflect the latest Eurostat population forecast (Europop 2013) and the European Commission’s short-term macroeconomic forecast (November 2014).
  • Cedefop’s forecasts cover 28 EU Member States plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Results, assumptions and methodology are regularly updated and reviewed by national experts. Forecasts use harmonised data and methodology to allow cross-country comparisons and do not substitute national forecasts. Employment data correspond to those reported in national accounts.

Forecasts for the EU and each Member State are available here.

Press release details

Press release type


Press release