New employment demands, new skills

In its report entitled Assessing and Anticipating Changing Skill Needs, the OECD highlights the existence of an imbalance in the skills required in advanced economies. 40% of European workers consider that their skill levels don’t correspond to what is required to do their job. 3 out of every 10 workers believe that they possess the skills to do their work while 1 in every 10 considers that they need to practise their skills to be able to perform their duties. Moreover, many companies find it hard to cover their vacancies because they cannot find candidates with the necessary skills in the jobs market.

Given this situation, the mismatches in skills give rise to costs for workers, businesses and the economy. For example, employees’ lack of skills may affect business’s capacity to innovate and adopt new technologies, as well as reducing productivity due to the inappropriate appointment of employees to posts. And of course would-be employees are also affected by the mismatch in skills since this mean a high risk of unemployment, low salaries, low job satisfaction and poor career prospects.

To resolve the imbalances and the lack of skills political intervention is required, but doing this successfully means having accurate information about current skills and those that will be required in the future. The OECD report identifies the strategies to be followed, transforming the qualitative and quantitative information on skills required into the relevant political actions. After its analysis, the following conclusions can be reached:

  • Systems and tools for assessing and anticipating skills needs exist in all countries but approaches vary significantly in terms of how skills needs are calculated, their methods, their scope (whether national, regional or sectoral) etc.
  • Skills challenges are common to various political fields, and therefore information on skills needs is vitally important to shape the different political dimensions and contribute to the development of a systematic and complete political response to the imbalances.
  • Major challenges must be overcome to guarantee that the information on skills needs is used broadly and efficiently: the characteristics of the exercises are often not aligned with the potential uses of the policy: the skills defined may not correspond to useful policy variables, output may be very technical or the results may not be sufficiently disaggregated at regional, sub-regional and sectoral level. In addition key stakeholders may not be sufficiently engaged and, when they are, disagreements about skills needs and the required policy response arise, making it necessary to build a consensus.
  • Linking these exercises to more specific policies that may help to overcome some of these challenges but at the risk of losing wider relevance.
  • Information on skills needs is most effectively used in policy making when there is good coordination among the ministries and stakeholders involved.