By the end of next year, around 15 million new jobs will be needed to get OECD countries back to pre-crisis levels of unemployment. That’s the “jobs gap” .
Paradoxically, there’s also a “skills gap” – a shortage of qualified people to fill job vacancies. According to David Arkless of Manpower Inc., companies in Europe have around three million unfilled vacancies. Why? Despite high unemployment, they still can’t find the right people.
The debate offered a fascinating insight into the skills shortage at a moment when the issue is being eclipsed by unemployment. But as OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría pointed out, “thinking about skills now is an act of foresight”. If we wait to act until economies recover, it will be too late.
Education and training as an investment in the future will be key. But, as Sharan Burrow, head of the international labour body ITUC, warned, this could be at risk as governments seek to cut back on spending. “If we don’t invest in education, we’ll be having this same debate in 10 years,” she said.
Just days before the release of the OECD’s annual survey of international migration, the panel also discussed whether countries should ease migration for skilled workers. Manpower’s Arkless pointed out that, in many cases, “the people who can fill jobs are in the wrong place with the wrong skills”. So, does it make sense to let them move more freely to the right place? In theory, yes. But in practice, as presenter Nik Gowing pointed out, that can face real political obstacles: “How do you persuade politicians to argue for skilled immigration in a time of unemployment?” he asked his panellists.
To hear what they had to say, tune in this weekend to The World Debate on BBC World at these times.