Computers and the Internet are changing the world. The innovations produced by the digital economy are gaining in popularity: think of cloud computing, social networks, mobile broadband, to name a few. But can these be the solution for unemployment in Europe?
As Internet in Europe rapidly penetrates all areas of life, EU-citizens are acquiring basic digital literacy. This is good news, as the labour market offers tremendous opportunities to those who master e-skills and the demand for highly skilled ICT-workers keeps growing. Digital competences are becoming vital for traditional jobs across all industries and rapidly creating new ones like Data Architects, App Developers, Digital Marketing Specialists, etc.
It is estimated that by 2020, 90% of all jobs will require e-skills, while the digitally illiterate risk strong social and economic disadvantages. In 2013, 21% of Europeans have never accessed the Internet, but big differences exist between Member States.
Unemployment in the EU28 reached 11% by the end of 2013 – with 23% among youth. This young generation has grown up in the digital era, making them engaged and confident ICT-users. It seems that not enough students choose ICT-related subjects, with the number of computer science graduates dropping since 2005. Meanwhile, the ICT sector keeps growing by 3% every year.
This leads to an alarming skills mismatch between demand and supply: This is shown by the fact that though unemployment rises, the need for ICT professionals is not fulfilled. Employers across Europe are unable to fill vacancies in the e-skills sphere. It is estimated that by 2015, Europe could face a shortage of up to 900,000 unfilled ICT vacancies. Young Europeans as “digital natives” could be best in place to fill the shortages, but it seems difficult to attract the wider student body – and in particular women – to ICT-based career paths.
Most crucial actions to fight digital illiteracy and boost e-competences are the responsibility of the Member States, but the European Union has taken measures to raise awareness on the importance of digital skills for the whole of its citizenry. In 2010 the European Commission proposed its e-skills strategy and Digital Agenda. This led to the creation of the Grand Coalition for Digital Jobs: An EU-wide multi-stakeholder network that aims to promote ICT skills. Recently this network met at the World Economic Forum and endorsed the Davos Declaration – a joint effort to deliver 100,000 extra traineeships by 2015. The current Hellenic Presidency plans to further discuss digital skills and employability. All these policy initiatives aspire to create a strong e-skilled society in Europe, which will contribute to job rich economic recovery and growth.