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29/09/2016

Two fifths of Europeans are digitally illiterate

Social Europe & Jobs

Two fifths of Europeans are digitally illiterate

Two-fifths of EU citizens have little or no ability when it comes to technology at a time when there is expected to be 756,000 unfilled jobs in Europe’s tech sector by 2020.

The European Commission has identified the tech and healthcare industries as two sectors where companies struggle to find employees who are properly trained.

When the Commission presented a detailed ranking of digital skills and internet connectivity in February, EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger said, “Overall we have to say that Europe is behind.”

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Today (10 June), the executive asked national governments to come up with their own plans for boosting the rate of technology education.

According to the executive’s figures, 41% of the EU workforce has little or no digital skills. Romanians are the most poorly educated: 74% of the workforce doesn’t have proper knowledge of how to use technology. Luxembourg’s workforce scored the best marks in the Commission’s ranking.

The figures reflect higher education trends across the EU. 25.5% of Romanians between the ages of 30 and 34 have a higher education degree, compared to the EU average of 38.5%. In Luxembourg, 50.5% of the same group has that level of education.

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The Commission will start a new ‘coalition’ later this year to bring together national initiatives dedicated to boosting digital skills.

In a blog post published today (10 June), EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip wrote that the group will use data analytics to pinpoint what kinds of skills each country’s labour market needs.

“There are many young people who use the internet on a daily basis but do not have the full skills needed to convert this interest into an actual job,” Oettinger and Ansip wrote.

Christian Verschueren, director general of EuroCommerce, the association representing Europe’s retail and wholesale industry, said, “Technology and demographic change are underlining the need for a labour market which allows flexibility and provides the skills for a new era in which lower skilled jobs are already disappearing.”

Lie Junius, Google’s public policy director in Brussels, said the company has partnered with more than 50 European universities on digital skills training programmes and is involved in similar projects in 25 European countries.

Industry group International Association of Privacy Professionals recently predicted that the EU will gain 28,000 new jobs because of the recently approved data protection regulation.

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Earlier this week, the Commission announced that it wants to make it easier for non-EU citizens to take on jobs in Europe under the Blue Card visa scheme for skilled workers.

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the programme should compete with the United States’ green card system because the EU is expected to lose 20 million workers by 2036.

Positions

Eurochambres, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, was disappointed with the Commission announcement, saying the New Skills Agenda was "underwhelming".

“In 2008, the Commission brought us ‘New Skills for New Jobs’, in 2010 it was an ‘Agenda for New Skills and Jobs’ and now in 2016, it’s a ‘New Skills Agenda’. Like the title, the contents seem to be a reshuffle of familiar concepts, but it is delivery and impact that we miss,” said Arnaldo Abruzzini, CEO of Eurochambres.

Eurochambres said it was "disappointed" that the Commission's agenda did not include "a quantifiable target for apprenticeships in vocational education and training (VET) and the development of a pan-European approach to skills forecasting".

“The Commission’s role is limited when it comes to education and training, so they should have focused on a small number of high added value measures which could create real socio-economic benefits,” Abruzzini said.

Background

According to the Commission's figures, there will be 756,000 unfilled jobs in Europe's tech sector by 2020. When the Commission presented a detailed ranking of digital skills and internet connectivity in February, EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger said, “Overall we have to say that Europe is behind.”