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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Francisco Javier Blasco: “We haven’t improved the effectiveness of active employment policies for years”

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One in five unemployed people in the European Union lives in Spain. Three out of ten if we refer to the long-term unemployed. However, there are still vacancies or vacancies that are difficult to fill, a problem that does not affect all industries equally and is increasing every year. In fact, 19.6% of them are grouped in transportation and storage, an activity whose demand has increased as a result of the pandemic, followed by headquarters, industrial, commercial and distribution, and technical architectural services and engineering activities, as indicated in the report labor market needs recently published by the Adecco Group Institute and is based on a survey of more than 27,000 companies in the Spanish labor market.

The shortage of labor in a context where unemployment hardly falls below three million people may seem paradoxical, but it is a reality affecting these and other sectors such as health and research, agriculture or hospitality, an activity in which the Health crisis forced thousands of workers who are relocating and who now prefer not to relocate: that is estimated for example up to 50,000 waiters are missing throughout the country. Is it a salary issue? Not only, says Francisco Javier Blasco, Director of the Adecco Group Institute: “We must maximize job and wealth creation, nurture valuable industries and professions, guarantee continuous training in technical skills and abilities, improve our productivity metrics and manage to increase those motivate those who don’t study or work,” he affirms.

Questions. According to the report, the most difficult job profiles to cover are found in the industrial, technology, and health and management sectors. Why these sectors?

Answer. Nowadays everyone is talking about the difficulty of profile reporting. We must not forget that in some sectors such as industry or technology we have been suffering from this shortage of skilled workers for many years, due to the still low presence of vocational training among students and the exponential demand for STEM profiles. [Ciencias, Tecnología, Ingeniería y Matemáticas, por sus siglas en inglés]. On the other hand, the area of ​​management includes thousands of middle managers, managers and administrative assistants, which combine many positions that are difficult to fill quantitatively. Without forgetting that, among other things, the post-pandemic and the aging of the population are increasing the demand for professionals in the health sector and the supply of graduates is not always sufficient.

P But the pandemic has affected many sectors…

R We could say that there are many areas where this problem exists. The growth of e-commerce has increased the demand for warehousing professionals, and the difficulties of training in transportation add to the complexity. Likewise, engineering is one of the most in-demand careers today and is difficult to cover (even to a greater extent than STEM) as many ICT professionals have complementary training pathways (e.g. boot camps) but no training alternatives in engineering to academic degrees.

P What reasons explain so many difficulties in filling these positions?

R There are various causes, but the most notable are the imbalances between training supply and business demand, the lack of generational renewal in some sectors that are less attractive to young people (whether due to low wages, hardship or other reasons), the gaps in the active employment policies (insufficient investment in training for employment, little public-private cooperation, errors in diagnosing occupations and target sectors, lack of guidance and encouragement for active job search…) and rigidities in migration policies or the traditional reluctance to internal geographic Mobility.

P Is it a deficiency that increases?

R Due to economic growth and the demographic factors already mentioned, such as the aging of the population and the lack of generational renewal, supply problems are beginning to spread both in our area and in the rest of the European Union. Also, some countries that were fishing grounds for many skilled workers before the 2009 crisis already have living standards that reduce that supply. In addition, we have not improved the effectiveness of active employment policies in our country for years and many rigidities for the viability of dual training and the training offer (new higher education law, abolition of training contracts after the labor reform or the availability of training funds for employment, among other things) , the horizon before us is worrying.

P What solutions can be suggested?

R It is necessary to open a social dialogue aimed at efficiency and results, without prejudice, involving social actors and all administrations. This is a challenge for the country. The outcome must include all available resources and must not underestimate public-private collaboration. Concrete goals must be set and their achievement measured, because we have spent decades with strategies and plans that have yielded few results. The range of courses must be updated, made more flexible, streamlined and territorially expanded, as must the range of VT and training for use in the most sought-after professional families (industry, ICT and health).

The availability of teachers must be guaranteed, rapprochement between companies and training providers must be promoted and rigid training contracts removed so that dual training does not become a new failure. And it is necessary to adopt the active policy in terms of advising students, unemployed and workers who want to improve their professional careers towards the studies, sectors and professions where they can develop their personal vocation and find quality employment strengthen and, in some cases, redefine and achieve better wages and a more sustainable working life thanks to continuous training and reskilling.

P You have stated that low wages “are not always to blame for job vacancies”. What other factors play a role? What are job seekers looking for today?

R People’s motivations have changed a lot these days. The emotional reward (jobs, concern for health at work, flexibility and opportunities for compensation, opportunities for advancement and retraining, company brand…) is becoming more important than the monetary reward. But we cannot deny that there are professions with salaries that are very vulnerable to inflationary scenarios like the current one, and in some sectors with lower salaries, opportunities for geographic mobility and economic sustainability are scarce. The solution in these cases is to use collective bargaining to encourage job enrichment through retraining, which will lead to productivity and wage improvements.

P How important is the possibility of relocating to other production areas and the possibility of requalification? Will the new FP law be enough to overcome this obstacle?

R This is one of the keys to improving employability and desirable salary increases, and that is exactly what they are doing in the best countries in the Union’s active politics (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the countries of Central Europe). With the new labor reform, it is an ideal ingredient for permanent workers that guarantees employability, stability and better wages, and where the employment sector has huge potential to work together to reduce unemployment rates.

P One in five unemployed people in the European Union lives in Spain. Is there a structural difference between our country and the other EU countries that explains this comparatively high unemployment rate?

R Yes. Our labor market is not very dynamic and the rigidities are reflected year after year in global competitiveness reports. Spain ranks 12th in terms of gross domestic product, but generally falls to positions below 30 and below 100 when we talk about the regulatory framework or investment and entrepreneurial opportunities. Other countries not only have less rigid labor regulations than ours, but also a more result-oriented policy that prioritizes active measures (counseling and training) over passive ones (payment of unemployment benefits and grants).

P What are the biggest challenges?

R They are the ones dealing with an adequate management of migratory flows, ensuring the replacement rate due to the aging of the population, digital education to enrich all professions and raising awareness of individuals and families to value many studies and professions behind which there are professional careers with enormous potential and higher salaries.

P What is the role of flexibility and teleworking in this conflict?

R Flexibility, and one of its manifestations, teleworking, offers the opportunity to attract talent from people who prioritize this variable over other components of emotional content, and in particular to attract talent from other countries who complement our shortcomings. There is no conflict between internal talent and external talent. The most technologically competitive countries are countries that import talent.

P Is it important to improve geographic mobility?

R It is crucial, and not just in terms of redistributing wealth between territories. We have to sensitize companies and people to enable this mobility, to offer employment stability and promotion and further training opportunities as well as salary increases and social benefits if we don’t want to “die of success”. In Spain, there is a lower percentage of skills shortages than in neighboring countries. The problem is that one in five unemployed people in the Union is ours and our GDP is still below pre-pandemic levels, so we cannot afford to have vacancies.

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