Chronic skills shortages despite high unemployment - report

The world is facing an economic paradox in which many countries are witnessing high and rising unemployment, whilst still suffering from chronic skill shortages in crucial professions as a result of labour market inflexibility, global competition for talent driving up salaries and poor or inadequate education and training.

These are the findings of a major new report published by recruiting experts Hays and produced in collaboration with Oxford Economics. The Hays Global Skills Index 2012 represents a unique and insightful barometer of the market dynamics and availability of professional skills in 27 key economies around the world.

The Hays Global Skills Index creates a score for each country between 0 and 10 on the constraints and frictions being faced by its market for skilled labour. This is calculated through an analysis of seven components, covering areas such as education levels, labour market flexibility, and high-skill wage pressures.

A score above the mid-point of 5.0 suggests that employers are witnessing difficulties finding the key skills they need and are suffering market friction, whilst a score below 5.0 indicates a lax labour market in which there are no major constraints on the supply of skilled labour. Within these overall scores, however, the scores attributed to each of the seven components can vary significantly, highlighting the different dynamics and pressures faced by each country.

The Index shows that each country surveyed faces specific issues in its skilled labour force. 16 of the 27 countries are currently suffering some degree of labour market tightness, despite the global economic slowdown. This drives wage inflation and leaves many valuable roles unfilled, thereby constraining economic growth. The worst affected are Germany and the United States, where there are considerable skill shortages despite high unemployment levels. At the other end of the scale, most of the countries with slack labour markets are in the Eurozone, where countries like Italy and Belgium see the lowest levels of friction and constraints in terms of hiring highly skilled professionals.

To combat the mismatch of skills availability and demand, the Hays report proposes a long-term three-point action plan for policymakers. First, governments should focus on the skills their economies lack and take appropriate measures to attract the relevant people through targeted immigration. This would in many cases require an overhaul of existing work visa arrangements. Second, employers should be offered fiscal incentives to increase their provision of relevant training. Third, governments should work with employers and educational authorities to implement a series of measures and incentives to persuade young people to acquire the skills that are most needed on both a country and international level.

Alistair Cox, Chief Executive of Hays said: "The Hays Global Skills Index and report illustrates a major paradox in the world’s skilled labour markets. Many countries are suffering chronically high levels of unemployment, yet employers are struggling to find enough skilled individuals to fill the posts available. Ironically, the world is short of the very skills that would help stimulate economic growth and thereby create opportunities for the unemployed.

"Finding the right person for a job can transform a business as well as that person’s life - this is our fundamental belief at Hays. This report and our recommendations are intended to provoke discussions and engagement from governments and international bodies on the current global skills mismatch. Solving the issues will take time but the challenge should not be dismissed. Our proposals would help create more jobs, stimulate economic growth and potentially provide employment opportunities for millions."

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