How can forecasting help solve the persistent mismatch between skills and jobs? This was the focal point of the Cedefop presentation at the Swedish presidency conference,  'New skills for new jobs. Mismatch the imbalance between demand and supply" (Gteborg, 22-23 October).

The target audience of the conference were managers of public employment services and national ministries. 

Cedefops Alena Zukersteinova, project manager for skills forecasting, said that according to recent studies only 21% of European workers report that they are holding jobs fitting their education, training and skills. This incurs a wage penalty calculated at 11%.

Paradoxically, stringent employment protection legislation may worsen the long-term skills mismatch. This is particularly true of measures that increase hiring and firing costs and thus make the labour market more rigid.  

Skill needs in all sectors are changing, with demand for low-qualified workers falling and for high and medium-qualified workers rising. This has been one of the major conclusions of Cedefops skills forecasts.

But when the forecasts look more closely at jobs, the picture becomes more complicated:  they reveal a polarised demand for both elementary jobs and highly-skilled occupations.  Matching skills and jobs is certainly not a straightforward proposition.

One way for countries to deal with this is to take measures to recognise all skills, no matter how they are acquired. Validation may have the added bonus of helping to make better use of the skills and knowledge of marginal group, thus encouraging their better integration into European society.

Even more importantly, public employment services must start cooperating more closely with the education sector to deal with the demographic factor: they need to challenge the tendency to take on less training as one grows older.

Fewer than 10% of Europes adults participate in lifelong learning.  But with the median age in Europe now at 39 years  and rising,  this trend must be reversed. Public employment services should encourage adult to add to their skills and knowledge throughout their working lives in order to achieve greater flexibility in the workplace and continuous social mobility.  

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