EU Labor Force Weakens; Companies Hunt for Skilled Workers

Article excerpt

Byline: Leander Schaerlaeckens, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

BRUSSELS - The long-term economic stability of the European Union, already endangered by declining fertility rates, is facing another challenge: a lack of qualified personnel and expertise.

A survey by the British-based Adecco Institute found that 35 percent of companies fear Europe's labor market lacks the technical expertise it needs.

Germany has 3.5 million unemployed workers, but 1.5 million jobs are vacant because no suitable candidates can be found, said former Labor Minister Wolfgang Clement.

Mr. Clement said the shrinkage is so severe that "by 2020 half of the German towns and villages will lose population."

Nineteen percent of companies complained of a lack of information technology and computer skills among the labor force, and 14 percent think workers lack sufficient language skills.

The survey of 2,500 companies in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain also showed that companies have become more willing to hire workers older than 50.

A lack of adequate staff planning is another issue. No company surveyed had a human resources blueprint charting more than 18 months ahead.

"Aging creates a risk for the sustainability of our economic model," Joaquin Almunia, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, said at a conference last month. …