Europe’s labour force is projected to remain at a similar level in the period up to 2030 while moderate job growth will likely curb unemployment, according to Cedefop’s skills forecast, released on 8 June in Brussels.

The forecast shows that technological change may accelerate known employment trends, such as the shift to services, and may also increase polarisation in job growth, with fast growth projected for high-skill occupations and moderate growth for certain lower-skill jobs. Employment levels in medium-skill occupations will experience a hollowing out, with occupations such as skilled manual workers and clerks, likely to decline or stay the same, as automation and offshoring take their toll. In that context, a rethink of traditional vocational education and training is needed.

Cedefop Acting Director Mara Brugia told a high-level event in Brussels where the new forecast was presented: ‘The goal of forecasting is not to predict the future but to help us to make informed choices to avoid deciding on education and training investments in the dark. Acting proactively is more effective, and often cheaper, than fixing adverse effects at a later stage.’

Cedefop collaborated with Eurofound to predict future skills needed in different types of jobs, using the European jobs monitor framework. Eurofound Director Juan Menéndez-Valdés said: ‘This is another concrete example exploiting two of the agencies’ most prominent tools, the Cedefop skills forecast and the European jobs monitor, to get even more added value.’

Manufacturing is the main sector affected by both global trade and automation, with economic growth projected to show no creation of new jobs and even job losses. However, some high-value-added sectors, including electrical equipment, other machinery, and equipment manufacturing and motor vehicles, are expected to see substantial employment growth. Employment is also forecast to increase in computer, optical and electronic equipment.

Service sectors will experience the fastest employment growth, notably legal and accounting services, research and development, advertising and market research, along with administrative and support service activities.

Chair of Cedefop Governing Board Tatjana Babrauskiene said: ‘The most critical challenge we will have to address in the decade to come is job polarisation, which reduces the amount of good and well-paid jobs. Polarisation means widening inequalities between those who have access to good-quality and skills-intensive work and those who end up being low-paid employees in inferior jobs.’

Director-General, DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion Joost Korte concluded: ‘Cedefop’s skills forecast is an important EU-level data source. It is essential for the work we do in Brussels in the context of the European Semester and to shape the skills for the future labour markets.’

Notes to editors

  • Cedefop’s latest briefing note takes a detailed look at the skills forecast.
  • Check out the forecast for the EU-28 and results by country on the Cedefop website.
  • A video animation presents the main forecast results in 2 minutes.