EU has a responsibility to create a competitive labour market

Employees, employers, education and training institutions must all work together to create a skilled workforce for the future, writes Martina Dlabajova.

By Martina Dlabajova

09 Jun 2015

Today, there are significant skills mismatches in the European labour market, with unemployment levels remaining persistently high. This is a tragedy for our citizens and for society.

Therefore we have to focus on continual education and training if we are to develop a skilled workforce and a competitive and inclusive labour market for the future.

I am convinced we can boost labour market participation and reduce welfare spending through active labour market policies.

We need economic structures that support life-long learning and create stronger synergies between education and the workplace while also promoting flexibility and greater labour mobility.


In my own-initiative report on matching skills with jobs, I highlighted four key points to help us deliver this: better anticipation of future skills needs; closer links between education and companies; giving back motivation and responsibility to young jobseekers; and the role for private intermediaries in helping workers join the job market.

In order to anticipate future skills needs we must partner with employers and employees organisations as well as universities to deliver vocational qualification programmes that equip people with the skills needed in the workplace.

We need a similar approach to education and training for all workers as well, particularly the unemployed.

The needs of the labour market are constantly changing, and by providing ongoing training we can integrate young people, women, older workers and skilled migrants into the job market.

At the same time, jobseekers need guidance and we should ensure that their skills are recognised through 'competences passports' reflecting the skills they have acquired.

Member states must also strengthen ties between education and employment, and promote partnership between governments and employer and employee representatives, including public and private employment services, in tackling skills mismatches.

I also believe we need special measures to address younger and older workers - encouraging employers to employ them, integrate them into the workforce and train them in the skills they need.

Training and re-qualification, particularly for the unemployed, is an essential element of any cooperation programme.

My report also stresses the importance of promoting initiatives that foster self-employment and entrepreneurship and strengthen education in these areas from an early age.

I believe we should place particular focus on SMEs and micro-enterprises that underpin our labour market: support them in finding qualified workers, training future employees and provide incentives for them to invest in training and apprenticeships.

Innovation and digitalisation are key in driving competitiveness and growth and there is significant job creation potential in the digital products and services sector.

The good news is that EU member states have much to learn from each other through exchanges of best practice.

Closer cooperation would also foster greater labour mobility and advance the work of the European commission's ERASMUS+ and EURES projects which have laid the foundations in this area.

During a recent "Way to Work" lunch I co-hosted with the European confederation for private employment services, Eurociett, there was a broad consensus that the commission and member states must provide leadership and support in delivering many of these proposals and that a useful first step would be to provide more centralised data on the skills gaps that actually exist.

We all have a social responsibility towards European labour markets and towards the new generation of Europeans.

I call on employees, employers and education and training institutions to take up their social responsibility and work together to create a skilled European workforce fit for the 21st century.