Governments, industry, NGOs, academia and other key stakeholders from across Europe have joined forces with the European Commission to push for further action to stimulate the creation of the jobs needed to build a digital single market in Europe.
Together they have drawn up the Riga Declaration - 10 principles that should guide efforts this year to unlock the potential of eSkills to fuel growth and job creation. The Riga Declaration was announced at the eSkills for Jobs high-level conference taking place in Riga, as part of Latvia's presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Harnessing the benefits of the digital revolution has been identified by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as a top priority and an essential means to ending Europe’s prolonged economic downturn.
Unemployment remains stubbornly high in many EU member states. But at the same time there is a parallel shortage of people with the digital skills needed to fill positions both in the public and private sectors. This is what is referred to as the skills gap.
The skills gap offers a big opportunity especially for young people entering the workforce. Unemployment among 15-24 year olds in Europe averaged 24% at the end of 2013.
Over the last decade, the number of ICT jobs in Europe has continued to grow, despite the unfavourable economic context and the alarming rise in unemployment, especially
among young job seekers.
The highest job growth has been in highly skilled jobs where there is increasing excess of demand over supply. The trend in ICT management jobs has been growth of almost 14% p.a. from 2011 to 2013. Even with cautious forecasting, demand is expected to increase at 4.6% p.a. up to 2020, largely due to a stagnation in the number of qualified graduates from universities. As a result, Europe will be faced with bottlenecks, especially in highest skilled ICT jobs, according to the research organisations, Empirica and IDC.
They expect 660,000 ICT jobs to be added to the existing pool of ICT workers by 2020. “On top of that, a potential 820,000 jobs could be filled by 2020, if talent would become available to an extent beyond our extrapolation of current trends” says Tobias Hüsing, Senior Research Consultant at Empirica.
The task of equipping Europe’s workforce with the relevant eSkills, which began in earnest eight years ago, is taking on ever greater urgency today, as digital technologies are starting to transform every area of economic life.
“As the digital revolution begins to impact all corners of the economy, people are going to need eSkills to qualify for a wide array of jobs, not just positions inside tech companies,” said John Higgins, Director General of DIGITALEUROPE, one of the signatories of the Riga Declaration.
“Within a decade plumbers, farmers, small shop owners, even bakers and shoemakers will be turning to digital technologies such as data analytics in their day-to-day lives to improve their efficiency.”
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