Oettinger: Youth unemployment is waste of talent we can’t afford


It’s unacceptable that the youth unemployment rates in some EU member states are massive, when the ICT sector has problems recruiting people, according to Günther Oettinger, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society.

At the one-day European Digital Jobs Fair in Madrid which opens today (20 November), Oettinger will stress in a keynote speech that that “It is unacceptable to see mass unemployment of young people whilst 40% of all companies trying to recruit ICT professionals in Europe report difficulties to find qualified workers. Something’s wrong there. This is a waste of human talent Europe can no longer afford.”

The jobs fair is organised by Digital Europe, the ICT industry’s representative at EU level, on behalf of the Commission. The aim is to both match job vacancies with job seekers, but also to draw attention to the high rates of unemployment, the week economic growth and the lack of digital skills in Europe.  

Some of the 59 digital companies that will be present at the jobs fair include the online retailer Amazon, Internet travel company Booking.com, IBM, Uber and GPS maker Tom Tom. They will try to fill more than 800 digital job vacancies the UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

“In the coming years, 90% of jobs will require some level of digital skills,” said Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility.

“This is why it is so important for Europe to promote better digital skills for all workers,” she added.

According to the Commission’s estimate, the ICT sector will have more than 800,000 vacancies in 2020 in Europe due to the lack of digital skills among young people as well as skils mismatch.

At the same time, youth unemployment rates remain at a devastating level, above 50%, in some southern European countries. The difficulty companies face hiring people with the right digital skills is proof that there is a skills gap, which is widening, according to Digital Europe.

“It’s a Europe-wide problem, requiring a Europe wide solution,” said John Higgins, the Director General of DIGITALEUROPE

“Like the rest of the  world Europe is embarking on a digital transformation that will impact every corner of our economy and society. Having the relevant digital skills isn’t just a plus, it’s a bare necessity,” he said.

Not all youth possess basic ICT skills despite their universal or at least increasing access to ICT infrastructure.

For example, the OECD report shows that almost 10% of youth on average are not equipped with basic ICT skills.

According to the report, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Slovakia, and Poland fare worse than the OECD average, with the latter having almost 25% of its young people not knowing basic ICT skills. Meanwhile, for the region of Flanders in Belgium, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland the figure is less than 5%.

  • 20 November: European Digital Jobs Fair in Madrid, Spain.

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