The European Commission this week unveiled new legislation to tackle the growing challenge of labour shortages in the European Union. The plan includes a digital tool called the EU Talent Pool. The platform, which is voluntary for EU countries, will match jobseekers from non-EU countries with European employers and speed up visa and work permit procedures for participating countries.

IndustriAll Europe believes that the package, which focuses mainly on attracting migrant workers to Europe through the Talent Pool platform, misses the target on skills shortages.

Labour migration, a quick fix pushed by employers, is far too narrow an approach. What the European Union needs is a sustainable, holistic approach based on industrial policy, employment and social policy, active labour market policy, education and training policy and collective bargaining.

Earlier this year, industriAll Europe identified the poor quality and unattractiveness of jobs as the main causes of the current record skills shortages. In line with recent reports by Eurofound, the OECD, the IMF, CEDEFOP and the European Commission, our position calls for wage increases and improved working conditions to address the shortages as well as clear rules to protect migrant workers from exploitation and ensure equal pay for equal work.

Moreover, the Commission’s online tool falls far short of addressing the scale of the skills challenge we face in view of the twin green and digital transition. The numbers are staggering: according to the European Battery Alliance, 800,000 workers across the value chain need to be retrained or upskilled to match the European Union’s battery ambitions. Research by the Boston Consulting Group for the European Electromobility Platform estimates that 2.4 million automotive workers will need to be retrained by 2030. In total, an estimated 25 million manufacturing, mining and energy workers in Europe - our industrial workforce - will need retraining or upskilling to meet the challenges of the green and digital transition in the next decade, as jobs change, some are lost and others are created.

These challenges can only be met with a long-term sustainable approach based on training and quality jobs. Lifelong learning, up- and reskilling are an integral part of quality jobs. Access to training is therefore fundamental to employment security and good working conditions. A right to training would guarantee access to training on the job (or between jobs), during working hours and at no cost for workers). Such a right to training, guaranteed at EU and national level, would have to be negotiated collectively by the social partners to tailor its implementation to the realities of each sector and company.

Labour migration must not lead to exploitation. While we welcome the recently published recommendation on the recognition of qualifications of third-country nationals, this will not solve the urgent problem of exploitation caused by the fact that migrant workers’ permits are tied to their employers. Together with the ETUC and 18 other European-level organisations and networks, we have therefore signed a Joint Statement calling for equal treatment of migrant workers in Europe.

We are at a turning point with the “European Year of Skills”, and industriAll Europe insist that the European Commission finds the political will to go beyond “easy fixes” and make proposals that could really make a difference in giving workers access to training and bridging the skills gap.

Joint statement on the revision of the Single Permit Directive: EN