According to the European Commission, the rate of unfilled vacancies rose to 2.9 percent in 2022 and is more than twice as high as ten years prior. As the population is getting older on average, the number of people of working age in the EU is forecast to fall from 265 million last year to 258 million in 2030.

To combat the shortages in the workforce, the European Commission on November 15 unveiled a new proposal which shall also foster legal migration. It aims at matching unfilled vacancies and fields where there is a shortage of applicants with skilled jobseekers, encouraging mobility also for those who are learning.

The Commission also made suggestions on how the recognition of qualifications from third countries could be simplified and that, for example, national authorities shall be enabled to speed up procedures by investments in personnel. Information on recruitment and migration procedures in EU countries shall be provided, too.

In comparison to most high-income countries, the share of the foreign-born population in the European Union is lower. According to Eurostat and OECD data, the population of the EU has 8.5 percent of foreign-born residents, in contrast to 29.2 percent in Australia or 14.0 percent in the USA.

Countries like Slovenia, Bulgaria and Bosnia and Herzegovina are also looking outside their own job markets to fill vacancies. Some are calling for further legislation, pointing out their own experience with labour mobility and skilled workers leaving their domestic labour markets.

Eine Grundschülerin sitzt an einem Tabletcomputer und tippt. Im Kampf gegen sexuelle Gewalt im Internet sind aus Expertensicht neue polizeiliche Online-Strategien nötig. Damit etwa die Opfer von Cybergrooming eine geeignete Anlaufstelle finden, wäre eine «Kinder-Onlinewache» mit Spezialisten der Polizei, Psychologen und Ärzten wünschenswert. (zu dpa: «Kampf gegen Cybergrooming - Experte: Digitale Polizeistrategie nötig»)
Participation in the talent pool would be voluntary for member states. The European Parliament and the EU-27 still have to negotiate and approve the proposal. Photo: Mohssen Assanimoghaddam/dpa

EU Talent Pool: Matching unfilled vacancies, routes for legal migration

On November 15, the Commission proposed the creation of an online platform for job offers in the European Union, the EU Talent Pool, as well as talent partnerships which are tailor-made partnerships with non-EU countries, offering mobility for work or training.

The aim is to ensure that people can come to the EU legally to pursue jobs matching their skills and qualifications. Another objective is to open a new front against illegal migration and, therefore, jointly fight against human traffickers.

According to the Commission Vice President for our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas, the starting point of the package “has to do with the training and work shortages in our markets, which are worrying, since 75 percent of European SMEs [small and medium enterprises] say they cannot find the employees they need.”

As an example, he explained that the EU will need 20 million people working in information and communications technologies (ICT) by 2030, but that the EU only has nine million people in this field at the moment. “We are missing eleven million,” he added. While not giving a concrete number of possible recruits through the future system, Schinas said the EU would like to “to have as many [workers] as possible as long as they fit the vacancies.”

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson indicated that these proposals are also part of “comprehensive approach to migration” with the creation of “legal pathways”. In this context, she stressed that the EU is going to need more workers in the labour market by 2030 and that for this “we are going to need more labour immigration”. 

Johansson specified that there are sectors with a “clear labour shortage in the European Union”, such as construction, the health sector, care for the elderly due to demographic evolution, ICT or transportation.

Brussels has identified 42 scarce occupations throughout the EU, which are part of the proposed regulation on the talent pool and which will be adapted according to needs. 

The pool will also support the implementation of talent partnerships. Jobseekers who have developed their skills within a talent partnership will receive a Talent Partnership Pass, visible to participating employers, certifying their qualifications. 

Participation for member states would not be legally binding and the European Parliament and the EU member states still have to negotiate and approve the proposal before such a platform can be set up.

National approaches and worries to labour shortage

In South-Eastern Europe, some countries are facing both a shortage in the domestic labour force and are also experiencing their own workforces’ mobility towards more favourable conditions in other EU countries.

In Slovenia for example, certain sectors face labour shortages while unemployment is at its lowest since 1991. The pool of former Yugoslav countries, from where the workforce has traditionally come to Slovenia, is emptying. A number of domestic workers, especially along the border with Austria, work abroad due to more favourable working conditions. In September, the amount of EU and third-country workers reached 15 percent of the total working population of just under one million, doubling compared to 2010.

Slovenia is looking further afield but for now, the share of workers from third countries excluding former Yugoslav countries is negligible, around one per cent of the total labour force. Slovenian Prime Minister, Robert Golob, stressed at the European Council meeting in Granada in October that the best way to manage migration effectively is through legalisation – because Europe needs labour. Regarding relations with third countries, he called for development aid and migration management to be linked, as the EU has done in its agreement with Tunisia.

Bulgaria, who is an EU member but not a member of the border-free Schengen area, implements EU law on the free movement of workers by opening its labour market to EU nationals. Labour and Social Policy Minister, Ivanka Shalapatova, said on October 20, that the Bulgarian government was working on a measure facilitating the import of foreign labour in cases when the possibility to activate Bulgarian citizens is exhausted. 

Between 2018 and 2022, the country has seen a positive trend in the number of residence permits issued for employment purposes to third-country nationals, according to data from the Bulgarian National Statistical Institute. In 2018, the country signed a bilateral agreement with Moldova on the regulation of labour migration. 

In Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), the increasing departure of young people to the EU has led to a shortage of workforce, especially in the case of occupations with a high demand. Minister of Labor and Social Policy of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Adnan Delić, recently announced amendments to the Law on the Employment of Foreigners and the liberalisation of work permits. The goal is to prevent production and the overall business community from suffering losses due to excessive and lengthy administrative procedures in issuing work permits to foreigners.

A recent study commissioned by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), two-thirds of companies in BiH expressed interest in hiring migrants. However, representatives of employers in the country say that they do not rely on migrants currently in the country because their goal is to reach the West.

According to the Minister of Security of BiH, Nenad Nešić, a significant problem is the arrival of legal migrants in Bosnia and Herzegovina who get employed in the country and then escape to the European Union overnight. He believes that BiH must sign agreements with the countries that send people to work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ensuring that these individuals cannot go to the EU and must return to their home country after completing their work.

This article is published weekly. The content is based on news by agencies participating in the enr.