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Skills shortages around the world are not uncommon but Europe is seeing a dramatic shortage of skills at technician level as opposed to Africa, and South Africa in particular with highly skilled worker shortages. I am talking about Europes shortage of IT technicians, back office admin, pipe welders, roofing experts and many other skills and professions that are abundant in South Africa. It is common to hear about South African accountants being lured to Europe and America or people going to the UK to be carers for the elderly, but there is an incredible skills shortage in Europe that includes a host of opportunities.

South African Accountants and Engineers, shipping experts are highly sought after around the World and with the opportunity to work in Europe earning Euros is high on the list of reasons to take up these opportunities. Some return after 3-5 years or longer having saved as much as possible and return to South Africa with a sizeable chunk of money to start a business, buy a house or invest for a comfortable retirement. Many young South Africans spend their post school “gap years” on the Yachts in the Mediterranean or Bahamas and return to South Africa with a very healthy bank balance having had incredible experiences.

Gap years are one thing and seeking a life in Europe is entirely something else. Apart from the obvious considerations of weather, language and family proximity, one needs to be acutely aware of the cultural differences, food, and many other living conditions like domestic help when moving abroad. Many young South Africans do not clean their homes, work in the gardens, take out the rubbish or wash their clothes, and these tasks can be quite daunting for the uninitiated. There is absolutely no doubt that the general quality of life with space, sun and assistance with anything from cleaning to childcare, South Africa offers a lifestyle almost undeaten anywhere in the World. There is a very big “However” and that is the value of our currency and lack of job opportunities leading so many skilled yuoung South African’s to seek opportunities outsiude of South Africa. The South ASfrican Government has shot themselves in the foot too many times to mention resulting it low business confidence, lack of investment appetite in SA and companies wanting to Invest in South Africa.

The first positive move to attract foreign workers was recently arrived at, the minister of home affairs issued a statement enabling foreign Nationals working for a Foreign company to be issued witha a digital Nomad Visa for up to three years in circumstances where a foreigner conducts work for a foreign employer on a remote basis and earns no less than the equivalent of ZAR 1 million per annum. This will not have an affect n the skills shortage in South African countries but will likely result in a lot more foreigners coming to South Africa to enjoy the benefits of the South African e=lifestyle while earning foreign currnecy.

The skills shortage in Europe is really dire with some of the stats shown below.

Skill Shortages in European Countries

In 2023, 75% of employers across 21 European countries faced challenges finding workers with the necessary skills, compared to 42% in 2018, marking a significant increase. Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the EU reported difficulties in finding skilled employees as one of their most serious issues. ManpowerGroup’s survey showed a substantial increase in employers struggling to find the skills they require, with 79% rise over the last five years.

Variation Across European Countries

Talent shortage ranged from 59% in Finland to 82% in Germany and Greece. Notably, countries like Ireland, the UK, Spain, and France experienced a rise of more than 50 percentage points in employers struggling to find skilled workers with technical qualifications and competence.

Causes of Europes Skill Shortages

Reasons behind skill shortages included demographic shifts, demand for new skills due to technological advancements, and challenges related to working conditions. Lack of applicants with the right qualifications, skills, or experience was a significant concern for employers, ranging from 41% in France to 70% in Estonia.

Impact on SMEs

Technician roles were particularly affected, with nearly half of European SMEs reporting shortages in technically trained staff. Customer care roles also faced shortages, with 23% of SMEs indicating a lack of skilled professionals.

Challenges for the Future of European business

Labour and skills shortages have been increasing across all member states for nearly a decade, driven by various factors including demographic shifts and technological advancements. The EU Commission emphasized the need for investment in upskilling and reskilling to address these challenges.

Expected Population Decline

The EU’s working-age population decreased from 269 million in 2012 to 264 million in 2021, with an additional decline expected by 2050. Insufficient alignment of education and training with labor market needs further exacerbates skill shortages.

Methodology Changes

The Talent Shortage Survey methodology changed in 2022, but the most significant upswing in skill shortages occurred before this change. The shift in methodology did not fully account for the substantial increase in reported skill shortages. These points highlight the growing concern of skill shortages across Europe, impacting various industries and necessitating proactive measures to address the challenges.

With this knowledge, let us look at where South Africans unable to find work have opportunities in Europe. There are many skills that may just qualify you to change your life and that of those around you. Take a look at the skills required and you may just be suitably qualified. This list includes skills like pipe welding, Roofing anmd construction and plasterers. These lists are by no means exhaustive but intended to give you a good idea of the broad cross section of skills shortages all over Europe which may env=courage you to seek advice on work opportunities in Europe.

Professional qualification shortages

Chartered accountants
Laboratory technicians

Supply chain management

Technical areas that Skills are required

social work
sales and marketing
IT technicians
Cyber security engineering
Data analysts
Senior carers
Bricklayers and masons
Roofers, roof tilers and slaters
Carpenters and joiners
Construction and building trades not elsewhere classified
Plasterers (including dryliners)
Welding trades, pipe welders in particular