Labor Shortages Persist in EU Amid Green and Digital Shifts

Labor Shortages Persist in EU Amid Green and Digital Shifts

The European labor market continues to tighten despite slower economic growth.

According to the 2023 EURES Report on labor shortages and surpluses, 84% of occupations are in shortage in at least one country.

The most affected areas are construction, engineering, healthcare, and ICT as the European Union (EU) economy changes to become more environmentally friendly and digital.

Acute shortages in healthcare, IT, construction

The most critical and widespread labor shortages are in:

  • Healthcare jobs like specialist doctors and nurses

  • ICT jobs such as software developers and systems analysts

  • Construction jobs including welders, plumbers, electricians, and truck drivers

These shortages seem to be long-term and are caused by lasting changes in Europe’s population, technology, and economy.

Clerical jobs lead labor surpluses

Clerical support roles had the most extra workers because many administrative tasks are now done by machines

Interestingly, many of these surplus occupations are highly skilled, and 60% of them are women. This shows that the job market is less favorable for women compared to men.

Intra-EU mobility eases job imbalances

About 250 job matches are possible because one EU country might need workers while another has too many in the same job.

Construction workers have the best chance of balancing out these differences across borders.

However, the overall effect of moving workers within the EU is small because not many countries have extra workers for the jobs that are high in demand.

Third-country nationals fill gaps

According to the EURES report, the number of third-country workers is higher than both shortage and surplus jobs, especially in construction and hospitality.

Hiring foreign workers can help with shortages in one country, but it needs to be done carefully to avoid causing worker shortages in their home country.

Language skills, recognizing qualifications, and cost of living are also challenges for these workers.

Aging workforce worsens labor woes

The construction sector, which employs 7% of EU workers, is finding it harder to hire people because of its aging workforce, and not enough young people and women are joining the industry.

Subcontracting and temporary contracts might make the industry less attractive. 

Additionally, the skills needed in construction are changing due to increasing digitalization and the shift towards environmentally friendly practices.

Navigating Europe’s labor market as a non-EU citizen

The changing job market in the EU offers both opportunities and challenges for visitors and immigrants from outside the EU.

People from outside the EU looking for work may find more job openings in areas with shortages but will face challenges like language barriers, getting their qualifications recognized, and high living costs.

Adapting immigration to labor needs

As job shortages continue, EU countries might need to change their immigration policies to attract skilled workers.

The upcoming European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS), which mainly focuses on short-term travel, could offer important information for long-term immigration plans.

Special programs to help workers in shortage jobs enter the EU, along with support for their integration and skill improvement, could help balance the job market.

However, policymakers need to carefully address their own labor needs without causing a loss of skilled workers in their home countries.

Balancing Europe’s labor market puzzle

As job shortages continue, affecting Europe’s economy and the move toward green and digital technologies, policymakers and businesses need to increase the supply of in-demand skills and make shortage jobs more attractive.

Encouraging more women and targeted worker movement can help, but a complete plan is needed.

This plan should focus on developing skills, improving working conditions, and adapting to new technologies.