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EU economies cannot afford to waste human capital: Start by tackling skills mismatch!

The summer is a good time to look back and reflect on the good work that the Committee has done in many fields since the beginning of the year. One that has drawn my attention is the very interesting study commissioned by the EESC's Employers' Group.

The study addresses the imbalance between the skills of the workforce and the demands on the labour markets in the EU, shedding light on the effects on EU businesses' competitiveness. According to the study, the European economy loses over 2% of productivity per year due to skills mismatches. This corresponds to a loss of 80 cents per hour of work or, in other words, in a loss of millions.

I can only agree with the study that we cannot afford to waste human capital. I am highly concerned about the situation that businesses across the EU experience a shortage of adequately skilled workers, while at the same time many of our young people struggle to find a job.

In June 2018, 3.4 million young persons were unemployed in the EU, as Eurostat data show. Although the youth unemployment rate has declined since 2013, it still remains high and much higher than the unemployment rates for all ages.

Let us be clear, we cannot build the Europe of tomorrow without our youth, we need their energy and creativity. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that young people have proper opportunities. We need to improve their employability by investing in their knowledge and skills so that they can seize the opportunities. Otherwise, European economies and societies will suffer with serious consequences for the future of Europe.

We must rise to this enormous challenge. Previously, the EESC has called for a skills offensive to tackle skills mismatches and youth unemployment. We have also recommended that resources allocated by the Member States to quality education should not be counted as expenditure. Instead they should be seen as an essential investment in a better future for all.

The new study argues that broader reforms are overdue and need to be taken up by all stakeholders alike. I can assure that the EESC, the House of Civil Society, will keep up its efforts and bring together expertise. By representing employers, workers and organised civil society players, it is well placed to identify what skills are needed in the world of work. Europe at work can only be successful and sustainable by bridging the gap.

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