Cedefop’s latest skill forecast shows that the European Union can expect a net increase in employment of 8 million new jobs between 2010 and 2020. Nearly ten times more job opportunities (around 75 million) will be generated to replace workers who leave the labour market. But skill mismatches and, in some sectors, skill shortages create risks for the EU labour market and the competitiveness of the European economy.

The demand for higher qualifications continues to rise in Europe, but the effect of the crisis has been to slow it down. This has led many people to take jobs for which they are overqualified. 


Cedefop Acting Director Christian Lettmayr cautions against drawing the wrong conclusions. Presenting the findings of the skills forecast at the European Economic and Social Committee on 22 March, he said: “Concerns over possible mismatches should not discourage people from seeking higher qualifications. A highly-qualified workforce is one of – if not the – most important factor for Europe’s competitiveness.”

Shortages persist despite high unemployment

While workers are affected by mismatches, some sectors face shortages. Too few people, for example, are studying science, technology, maths and engineering. These fields continue to be in high demand.

By 2020, about 40% of young people will have a university degree or equivalent. But qualifications are not enough. In search of the right skills profile, more and more students are opting for upper-secondary, pre-tertiary and university-level vocational qualifications.  In 2020, jobs requiring medium qualification levels will still outnumber those requiring high and low qualifications. 

Winners and losers in the future job market 

The forecast finds that trends such as the shift to more skill-intensive jobs and towards services will continue, regardless of the effect of the crisis. 


Alena Zukersteinova of Cedefop’s skills team says:  “What this forecast shows is that the real decline is in routine jobs - but these are not always low-skilled.  Production-line jobs are obviously routine, but so are some administrative or clerical occupations.
Personal care services, however, which are considered low-skilled, are not routine, and demand for such jobs will continue to grow. Clerical jobs, on the other hand, are projected to suffer serious losses by 2020.”

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