Action Plan on tackling skills and labour shortages: the EU Commission must beef up its action

Staff
By Staff
5 Min Read

As announced during the Val Duchesse Declaration, the European Commission has presented its much anticipated action plan to tackle labour and skills shortages in the EU. IndustriAll Europe welcomes some aspects of the plan, but it lacks concrete solutions that match the urgency of the situation across Europe.

The action plan proposed by the European Commission provides a clear analysis of labour and skills shortages in the EU. IndustriAll Europe particularly welcomes the Commission’s recognition that the low attractiveness of jobs (meager pay and bad working conditions) is among the main root causes of labour shortages. However, the action plan falls short of proposing solutions that match both the scale and urgency of the situation.

Decent pay and good working conditions are essential to attract workers. Job quality is constantly decreasing in some industries, resulting in fewer workers, in particular young people opting for industrial jobs. While skills shortages are exacerbated by the twin transitions, offering decent wages, good working conditions, and safe and secure jobs is essential to attract and retain workers, especially in the emerging sectors.

Restructuring waves are on the rise. We are seeing an increase in job cuts, and more and more jobs are threatened. As a result, an increasing number of workers will need to be up/re skilled and trained. With the twin transitions underway, there is an urgency to turn lifelong learning into a reality on the ground.

Training should be accessible for all. It should be recognised, cost-free, and take place during working hours to ensure that workers are adequately equipped with the necessary skills to navigate the green and digital transitions. Unfortunately, the European Commission’s action plan falls short of ensuring that every worker has access to quality and inclusive training.

It’s time to ensure we implement the EPSR first principle of a right to training and establish a binding framework to support all workers in acquiring new skills and ensuring employment security.

IndustriAll Europe does not share the Commission’s assessment that barriers to free movement of workers and learners between Member States are one of the root causes of labour and skills shortages in some regions. On the contrary, the EU’s freedom of movement without a ‘freedom to stay’ is the actual cause of shortages, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe, and even in Southern Europe. The ‘freedom to stay’ means that everyone should have access to good quality jobs and social services in their home country, without being forced to move abroad. Migration must be a choice, not a necessity. The same logic also applies to third-country migration.

While investing in quality jobs and up- and reskilling remain key solutions to tackle the shortages, in some cases a certain degree of labour migration is also needed, particularly due to demographic change. This solution must be accompanied by strong measures that ensure equal treatment of workers from abroad and close involvement of trade unions to avoid breaches of workers’ rights. Opting for labour migration without guaranteeing equal treatment of all workers risks amplifying social dumping and even exploitation.

Finally, improving skills intelligence and data gathering is a step in the right direction to bridge skills gaps. However, it must be accessible to all i workers and their trade union representatives.

Tackling labour shortages requires a holistic approach based on Industrial policy ,employment and social policies, active labour market policies, education and training policies and collective bargaining

“While we are at a turning point with the urgency to deliver the twin transition, the European Commission and policy makers must find the political will to go beyond “easy fixes” and make concrete proposals to deliver quality jobs and ensure workers’ access to training and bridge the skills gaps.

“Failing to ensure that everyone can adapt to the rapidly evolving industries will put the success of the twin transformation at risk.” says Isabelle Barthès, industriAll Europe Deputy General Secretary.

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