Improving Access to Labour Market Information for Migrants & Employers

Brussels, 7-11-2012 — / — Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this Expert Seminar that is devoted to the access of migrants and employers to labour market information and which is organised by LINET, the Independent Network of Labour Migration and Integration Experts.

The theme of today’s seminar is very important. Let me very briefly elaborate on the policy context.

The European labour markets will emerge from this long economic crisis profoundly changed. Structural change has induced rapid transformations in skill needs. Some of the traditional labour-intensive sectors employing large numbers of migrant workers, such as construction and manufacturing, have experienced large employment losses with lay-offs of migrant workers exceeding 31% during the period 2008-2011.

Furthermore, as the economy recovers, new labour demands will go often hand in hand with difficulties to satisfy specific skill needs. Some of these difficulties are already visible in certain jobs and sectors, such as ICT or health and care.

We can therefore say that demand for labour in Europe is becoming predominantly qualitative rather than quantitative in nature. Moreover, recent studies by the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) on Europe’s future skill needs indicate that labour demand in the most dynamic economic sectors may continue to rise between now and 2020, while needs in a range of low-productivity sectors may continue to decline.

In its Employment Package of last April, the European Commission identified three main areas with a high growth and job creation potential: the green economy, information & communication technologies and health services. And all these areas are potentially driving significant employment opportunities; however they require a huge amount of up-skilling or re-skilling.

Europe’s labour market is also experiencing a demographic transition. Analysis undertaken by the Commission in cooperation with the OECD shows that the share of skilled workers among retirees will be significantly higher over the next decade compared to the previous one. New entries in the labour force with tertiary education are projected to decrease from 3.5 entrants for each retiree to 1.4. As a consequence, despite progress made in terms of education levels, we are facing a possible ‘skills squeeze challenge’ due to population ageing.

The responsiveness of the European labour supply to these changes is of critical importance. Europe should be able to quickly respond to the emerging new demands from the most competitive parts of the economy. Within the very competitive global environment, a slow or inadequate response may imply the loss of important opportunities of new economic activity and the jobs associated with it.

Labour markets are only dynamic if employment policies facilitate the transitions that enable the workforce to acquire new skills, and if they can effectively help both domestic and migrant work force to become more mobile in order to respond to the emerging skill needs.

We need good skills anticipation and forecasting, and we need to invest in the workforce, young as well as older, in order to ensure sufficient supply of the skills needed by the economy. Lifelong learning, intergenerational skills transfers, apprenticeships and youth guarantee schemes all have a role to play.

In the Employment Package, the Commission has put forward a plan to strengthen skills investment and to tackle skills mismatches through better monitoring tools at EU level. In particular, I should mention the EU Skills Panorama to be launched in December of this year that will present quantitative and qualitative information on short-term and medium-term skills needs, skills supply and skills mismatch from both European and national sources.

The Commission is also proposing to boost EURES, the European Network of Employment services, as an EU-wide matching, placement and recruitment tool. Its reform will include new formulas for public and private employment services to work together and boost labour mobility across Europe.

The issue of economic migration needs to be adequately integrated in these policies and investments since migrants represent an important share of the EU workforce. However, at the EU level, we are still far from a satisfactory valorisation of the available migrant human resources. In addition, Europe remains less attractive than the USA, Canada or Australia when it comes to highly qualified migrants.

The economic crisis we are going through of course plays a role in this: Europe’s major problem at present is low demand for labour due to uncertainties companies face.

But analysis of economic and demographic trends clearly indicates that there is no contradiction between the goal of mobilising the full EU employment potential and the need for a more targeted economic migration policy that opens pathways for skilled migrants to fill unsatisfied labour needs.

The policy approach in this area as defined by the Europe 2020 Strategy underlines the need to make the best use of the potential of migrants already legally residing in the EU while, at the same time, paving the way for new economic migration in additional sectors in which labour and skills shortages are emerging.

In this context, filling the information gap between employers and migrants is a key challenge for policy–makers and for labour market institutions. This is mainly because a considerable part of unsatisfied skill needs are generated by small and medium-size companies which dispose of limited means for human resources management and often have poor access to labour market information. At the same time, migrants are often confronted with many difficulties in their efforts to access information for finding a job.

It is for these reasons that I am particularly interested in today’s debate, which brings together so many experts on these policy issues from around the world. I therefore hope you will have a productive discussion and I look forward to the recommendations and conclusions of this seminar.

Before I close, I would like to take this opportunity to warmly thank the International Organisation for Migration and all the staff of the LINET network as well as the experts who have contributed to the work of this network over the past 3 years. Your work has been particularly valuable for the Commission as it helped to integrate the dimension of migration in our policy development.


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