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EU plans to recruit more external workers to fill skill shortages

It coincides with a report which showed that France is experiencing major skills shortages across a range of key sectors

An EU flag with models of people walking into it, to show easier migration

Workers from outside the EU will find it easier to get work that matches their skills under the new plans Pic: Mr. thanyathep / Shutterstock

The European Commission has announced plans to help “make the EU more attractive to talent from outside the EU”, in a new recruitment campaign to bring non-EU workers to fill EU job vacancies.

The plans have been dubbed the “Skills and Talent Mobility package”, and come as part of the Commission’s European Year of Skills, the Commission said in a statement.

The drive will aim to bring in more non-EU workers to fill roles that are experiencing skills shortages, which the EU says is happening “in a range of sectors, and at various skill levels''. It also said that offering more “opportunities for legal migration can be expected to disincentivise irregular migration”.

The Commission said that while its “drive to fill labour shortages in the EU starts at home…the EU will also need to attract skills and talent from all around the world…to address the shortages that the Member States are facing”.

It admitted that “its relentless efforts to upskill, reskill and use the untapped potential of the EU's domestic workforce” would not be enough to fill these shortages.

Developing “labour migration cooperation with third country partners” would be a “mutual gain”, it added.

The Commission outlined three initiatives as part of the plan:

1. The EU Talent Pool

The EU is planning to create an ‘EU Talent Pool’ to make it easier for EU companies to recruit non-EU workers. The pool will provide information on fair recruitment rules, outline acceptable working conditions, and make international recruitment faster.

Taking part will be voluntary for Member States.

2. Easier and faster recognition of third country qualifications 

The talent pool would also showcase workers who have developed their skills under a ‘Talent Partnership’. They will have a ‘Talent Partnership Pass’, which will certify their qualifications and make them stand out to potential EU employers. 

This scheme is aiming to help “simplify and speed up the recognition of skills and qualifications of third country nationals”. It will work in a similar way to the system already in place for EU nationals who move to another Member State.

The scheme will aim to make it easier to compare third country qualifications with EU qualifications, so employers can more easily gauge jobseekers' skills. This means they will be able to fill vacancies with more confidence, and make recruitment decisions more quickly and easily.

The Commission said that “employers' lack of understanding and trust in skills and qualifications gained in third party countries is a significant barrier to talent and skills mobility”. This is thought to have two negative effects:

  • The EU is less attractive to qualified workers 

  • ‘Brain waste’, in which third country nationals are forced to work below their qualification level.

“By facilitating international recruitment [this proposal] will enable jobseekers from non-EU countries to find a job in the EU, and at the same time help EU employers to find the talent and skills they need,” said  Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs.

“This will further complement our efforts to make the EU more attractive as a destination for talent.”

3. Making ‘learning mobility an opportunity for everybody’

The proposed ‘Europe on the Move - learning mobility opportunities for everyone - scheme will aim to “boost mobility in all areas of education and training”. 

The scheme will invite Member States to make “learning mobility within the EU an integral part of all education and training schemes”, including within schools, apprenticeships, higher and adult education, and vocational courses. 

The Commission has set new targets for 2030. It is aiming for at least 25% of graduates to have experience of mobility within Member States, “20% for learners with fewer opportunities, and at least 15% for vocational learners”.

This is also intended to “promote the attractiveness of the EU as a learning destination for talent from third countries”.

“We believe in a future where the opportunity to learn abroad is not a privilege but a standard option available to everyone,” said Iliana Ivanova, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth. “This is why the ‘Europe on the Move’ initiative opens the doors to learning mobility for students, teachers and apprentices, and sets ambitious new goals. 

“This is a key building block of the European Education Area, where learners and knowledge circulate freely.”

Parliament negotiation

The Commission added that the proposal for an EU Talent Pool and the Europe on the Move plan will now be negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council.

It will also call for Member States to report on relevant national initiatives, reforms, and good practices.

EU employment and learning trends

The Commission highlighted several relevant employment trends as it announced the proposals. These included:

  • The unemployment rate remains low overall (6.0% in September 2023), but the job vacancy rate rose to 2.9% last year, more than double the level of 2012
  • Demographic change will worsen labour market challenges. The EU working age population is forecast to decline from 265 million in 2022 to 258 million in 2030
  • Without action, this demographic change could undermine the green and digital transitions, dampen the EU's competitiveness, and weaken already-struggling sectors switch as healthcare
  • The share of Europeans participating in a learning activity in a country other than their own is still low, despite it being a highly valuable experience for those who do take part.

Thierry Breton, European Commissioner for Internal Market, summarised the new plans.

He said: “Overall, many companies in Europe struggle to find skilled workforce such as software developers or civil engineers. We have come a long way in upskilling and reskilling workers in the EU…In parallel, we need to continue attracting skills and talent from all around the world.”

France employment trends

According to statistics bureau Insee, unemployment in France in 2022 was 7.3%. This is higher than the EU average of 6.1%.

A 2022 report found that France has skills shortages across all types of sectors, especially:

  • manufacturing and production
  • human resources
  • information technology
  • sales and marketing
  • operations and logistics
  • hospitality and retail
  • banking and finance
  • education, health and government

It also found that some sectors in France were experiencing a 16-year-high in shortages.

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