Global "war for talent" expected to escalate once economies recover, says ILO ahead of World Population Day

GENEVA: As the world population grows, so does the demand for jobs. Paradoxically, the global skills shortage will grow too, the International Labour Organization has warned.

“Some countries face ageing societies, others have burgeoning youth populations, but all need to improve skills development to meet current needs and anticipate future demands,” ILO said in its new report.

On the whole, the world population is ageing. The proportion of the population aged 60 years and over will rise in the more developed regions from 22 per cent in 2010 to 33 per cent in 2050, and in the less developed regions from 9 per cent to 20 per cent, according to the UN World Population Prospects.

Finding the right skills at the right time will become increasingly difficult, according to ILO’s report. “As the working age population declines, the pace of technological change and innovation grows, and emerging markets become more competitive and need to attract talent. Even in times of crisis, when the pool of available skills is large, businesses fail to find the talent they need because of a mismatch in skills supply and demand.” “In the longer run, that gap is expected to increase, despite forecasts showing the number of jobseekers swelling to 210 million by 2016,” says ILO skills expert Olga Strietska-Ilina.

And, the global “war for talent” is expected to escalate once economies recover.

About one third of employers already experience difficulties in filling job positions, because they can’t find candidates with the necessary skills, according to a Manpower Group survey of companies in 41 countries and territories.

Growing international flows of migrant workers can contribute to easing the shortfall in some countries, but the challenge is to ensure this does not create gaps in the migrants’ countries of origin.

A key to tackling the mismatch between the skills that are available and those the labour market needs is to make education and training more responsive to technological change, environmental and climate change challenges, trade and competitiveness.

In many cases, the curriculum and the structure of training provision have to be thoroughly revised, and trainers need to be re-trained to make skills programmes relevant to today’s and tomorrow’s world of work.

In developing countries, much of the work available is insufficiently productive to yield a decent income. “Well-designed skills development policies integrated in general economic, development, industrial, trade and technology policies, can play a major role in attracting investors and tapping on the employment potential of growth sectors,” says Strietska-Ilina.

“Skills may become a driving force in moving the production up in the value chain and making businesses competitive on global markets,” she adds.

The ageing of the population and a potentially shrinking labour market is a major challenge for most developed and some developing economies. In these countries, measures aimed at bringing economically inactive people back to the labour market, including lifelong learning, will be needed.

In many developing countries, the growing size of the youth cohort will continue to challenge education and training capacities, and job creation rates. Programmes need to be closely linked to labour market requirements, to ensure that young people have the skills they need to enter the marketplace – a crucial element at a time when 75 million young people are unemployed.

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