European Digital Skills Shortage Looms

The coming decade already threatens to be difficult for young people across the European Union. Now a new report suggests more reasons why they should worry. It says vacancies will rise, but the youth will not have the digital skills to fill them.

The Information Daily reports:

By 2015, 90% of jobs will need e-skills. The number of ICT practitioners in Europe was 4.7 million in 2007 and is forecast to reach 5.26 million in 2015. In more general terms, jobs for highly-qualified people are expected to rise by 16 million between now and 2020, while those held by low-skilled workers will decline by around 12 million.

The figures come from a report prepared for the European Commission to tie in with the launch of European E-Skills Week. It suggests that despite the economic downturn ICT represents 5% of GDP, has continued to grow at an annual rate of 3%, but will suffer a shortage of 700,000 professionals by 2015.

Additionally, Europe faces growing unemployment with 23 million people out of work, and youth unemployment at 21%. The OECD has produced research indicating that higher education has a quantitative impact on employability and earnings potential. Statistics released in 2011 show that across the OECD countries, 83.6% of people between 25 and 64 with tertiary education were in employment, compared to 56% of those without an upper secondary education. Similarly, the earnings gap between people with higher education and those without has been estimated at 57%.

In this context, the crisis revealed deep structural weaknesses in our labour markets. The unemployment rate hit a new high at 10.1 % in the EU in January 2012. Youth unemployment reached a new historic high of 22.4 %. It is higher than 20 % in about two-thirds of countries and close to 50 % in Spain and Greece, while it is less than 10 % in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. This growing demand contrasts with a decreasing number of ICT graduates since 2005.

These figures come despite an “E-skills for the 21st Century” strategy launched five years ago by the European Commission. The challenge remains that knowledge workers’ jobs are generally highly mobile. Most can move to anywhere with an Internet connection if the right skills are there.

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