Information and communications technologies (ICT) play an increasingly important role in our professional and private lives, and digital competence is of growing importance for every individual. In the future, nearly all jobs will require digital skills.
However, European Commission figures show that two fifths of the EU workforce have little or no digital skills. In addition, despite continued high levels of unemployment, there could be 756 000 unfilled jobs in the European ICT sector by 2020.
This situation is even more challenging in certain geographical areas (such as south-eastern Europe), among socially vulnerable groups (in particular, the unemployed and the disabled) and the elderly. Despite favourable developments in the digital literacy of citizens, the digital gap needs to be narrowed further.
Digitalisation has several impacts on the labour market. On the one hand, new business models, products and machines create new jobs, while on the other hand, automation contributes to the elimination of jobs or their relocation to countries with lower labour costs. To remedy this situation, developing the digital skills of the EU workforce is essential.
Reducing the mismatch between the skills available and those demanded for the digital transformation of the economy has been a key EU-level priority over the past decade. For instance, a 2008 communication entitled ‘New skills for new jobs’ emphasised the increasing need for digital skills in the shift to a low-carbon economy. Furthermore, the 2010 Digital Agenda recognised the need for indicators to measure the extent of digital competence in the EU. This was implemented through the development of the Digital Competence Framework (‘Dig Comp’), enabling citizens to evaluate their digital skills, and the Digital Economy and Society Index (‘DESI’), summarising relevant indicators on Europe’s digital performance and tracking the evolution of EU Member States in the area of digital competitiveness.
The Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs, a multi-stakeholder partnership created in 2013, aims to facilitate collaboration between business and education providers, and between public and private actors, and has already created 60 functional pledges in 13 countries.
The 2016 New Skills Agenda aims to improve the quality of skills training and to make the skills acquired more visible and comparable from one country to another. Data on ICT skills should also be improved in order to better anticipate developments and help people make better career choices. Skills acquired in non-formal ways should also be assessed and validated.
Possible solutions developed in the EU Member States include encouraging and enabling people to acquire the skills needed, enhancing the labour mobility of digitally skilled people and promoting cross-border skills policies. Improving skills supply can be done by encouraging people to offer their skills on the labour market and by retaining skilled people in the labour market. Putting skills to effective use by creating better matches between skills offered and demanded, and by increasing the demand for high-level skills can also contribute to improving the situation.