On 3 and 4 May, the employment and social affairs ministers meet informally in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss the most recent developments in the labour market and more specifically how to improve the matching of skills and jobs. After the Covid-19 pandemic and at a time of green and digital transitions, the topic of skills is crucial and will be debated all year long at EU level, as the 2023 European Year of Skills will launch next week, on 9 May.
It was agreed in March by the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Council of the EU that this year would focus on skills for the period from 9 May 2023 to 8 May 2024. The goal is to address skills shortages and boost the EU skills strategy, based on the European Skills Agenda which was published by the Commission in 2020. The five-year plan seeks to strengthen sustainable competitiveness, ensure social fairness and build resilience, rooted in the lessons learned from the pandemic.
The focus is set on the upskilling and reskilling as well as the development of digital and green technology skills to best address the twin transition. In April 2023, the Commission adopted two proposals for a Council Recommendation seeking to provide accessible digital education and training to develop the digital skills of European citizens. The Commission also aims to develop legal labour migration to attract talents to the EU. In April 2022, it set out the EU Talent Pool, an EU-wide platform and matching tool.
To boost green skills, the Council of the European Union adopted its Conclusions on Skills and Competences for the Green Transition in March 2023. Those conclusions respond to labour shortages in sectors that are crucial to the green transition. The Council also called for a joint mapping of the reskilling and upskilling needs for the transition.
European Commission: Attracting skills and talent to the EU
European Parliament: European Year of Skills 2023
European Movement International’s Position
The health crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have profoundly affected European societies and economies at a time when the digital and green transitions are transforming the labour market. In our new policy position on Post-Pandemic Recovery and Development in Europe, we urge the EU to support European citizens in adapting to this changing reality through social and green policies implemented in coordination with organised civil society and social partners.
The EU must invest in the most up-to-date technical skills to take up emerging opportunities in a moving landscape, alongside transversal skills necessary to continue learning and adapt to change during labour market transitions. Reskilling and further education programmes will be crucial to adapt to this new reality, as well as acknowledging the role of frontline workers (often with low salaries) and recognising their contribution to society as well as addressing their working conditions. Investments in skills are crucial and should combine two complementary approaches: they should primarily target people with the lowest qualification levels and actively reach out to them while ensuring continued skills relevance and upskilling throughout the lifecycle, which then should be adapted to the individual situation and allow for different learning speeds.
A holistic approach should be taken when considering the green skills necessary for the just transition. Considering the digital transformation unfolding, the EU should also improve access to digital education programmes, the teaching of digital skills and launch more awareness programmes about the positive and negative consequences of digitalisation and social media on democracy.
Policymakers must also develop recovery plans with an intersectional dimension that fully address the long-term impacts of the pandemic on young people, such as the transition from education to quality jobs or mental health issues. Education is a tool to fight inequalities with and to promote social mobility and it is key to unlocking talent, creativity and human potential. In the long term, the EU needs to ensure that education matches the needs of the economy and it must speed-up job matching in the short term through adequate training programmes.