The European Commission's 2015 Employment and Social Developments in Europe (ESDE) review, which was presented at a conference in Brussels on 21 January, reveals further positive developments in the EU. Differences between Member States still exist, however, many of them linked to an underutilisation of human capital.

Cedefop made a significant contribution to two of the report’s chapters: skill development and matching in Europe, and preventing and fighting long-term unemployment. In that context, Cedefop experts worked together with DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion and sister agency Eurofound throughout 2015. 

The review’s skills chapter contains information from Cedefop’s skills forecasting, its European skills and jobs (ESJ) survey as well as the analysis it undertook in 2015 on skill shortages and tackling unemployment.

At the Brussels event, Cedefop expert Konstantinos Pouliakas, who contributed to the ESDE review, focused on the implications for skill mismatches of changing skill needs and discussed effective policies to mitigate them.

Better education and jobs needed

He argued that, although unemployment remains high, employers encounter difficulties to fill certain vacancies. However, in addition to genuine skills mismatches, which can be mitigated via more responsive education and training systems, some employers struggle to fill vacancies due to their inability to offer attractive pay or working conditions, as well as good training or career opportunities.

Mr Pouliakas presented evidence that there is also a significant share of university graduates, about 29%, who are employed in occupations below their qualification level.

The Cedefop expert pointed out that employers need to increase their commitment to their employees’ lifelong learning. To do so, it is essential to raise skill demand by investing in higher-end product market strategies, and strengthen the organisational and social support structure for learning within firms. Tackling inequalities in adult learning towards lower-skilled, temporary contract and older-aged workers is also of paramount importance.

Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility Marianne Thyssen said that Europe must ‘invest in enhancing people’s skills so that all women and men in the EU can realise their full potential. We need to invest in people to achieve growth and jobs.’

Skills Agenda to address challenges

The review looks at long-term unemployment, which affects about 11 million people in the EU. Fighting it is crucial when striving to improve labour market efficiency, as the long-term unemployed have about half the chance of finding a job compared to the short-term unemployed. The analysis shows that being registered with Public Employment Services and receiving training via activation policies significantly increases the chances of moving to a sustainable job.

The new Skills Agenda initiative that the European Commission is preparing for this year will seek to address these challenges. Cedefop will provide input on skill mismatch, validation of non-formal and informal learning as well as on skills intelligence and guidance.