Labour markets in Europe are changing at a fast pace, requiring people to adapt and constantly develop their skills and qualifications if they want to remain employable. Companies increasingly struggle to find people with the skills they need. Beyond basic competences and trade-specific skills, digital skills are gaining in importance in many economic sectors, as are social and interpersonal skills.

The private employment industry is committed to developing the skills and qualifications of workers. Starting with its own employees! In the agency work sector, bipartite training funds have been established to facilitate the upskilling and reskilling of agency workers and help them find their next work opportunity.

As for the services that the private employment industry provides, career guidance, training and coaching are typical activities offered by career management firms. The private employment industry is also fostering social innovation in the area of skilling and learning through innovative apprenticeships schemes.

European skills strategies

The European Commission has been designing and implementing skills strategies in the past years, focusing on understanding and developing skills. Each year the Commission formulates policy recommendations to Member States through the process of the European Semester, with a strong focus on dual learning and apprenticeships. It has also developed tools and funding opportunities to support national actions.

In July 2020, the European Commission presented a new European Skills Agenda which sets quantitative objectives for upskilling and reskilling to be achieved within the next 5 years. The World Employment Confederation-Europe is ready to partner with all stakeholders to implement this strategy. In its position paper, the organisation points to the actions where the knowhow of the private employment services sector would be particularly useful (skills intelligence, vocational education and training, STEM and transversal skills, adult learning and skills for life and individual learning accounts). The World Employment Confederation-Europe also underlines the importance of unlocking investments and building on the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality for the Agenda to be successfully implemented.

The European Commission proclaimed 2023 as the “European Year of Skills” to provide a new momentum to reach the EU 2030 social targets of at least 60% of adults in training every year, and at least 78% in employment. Throughout the year, the HR services industry will continue to contribute to policy debates on skills and inclusive labour markets demonstrating how career management services, direct recruitment and agency work services contribute to a better matching of skills with labour market needs and help to reduce labour shortages.

Skills & labour shortages

As Europe started to recover from the Covid crisis, its labour markets have been facing significant skills and labour shortages. The issue became of growing predominance and concern for employers and policymakers across Europe as those shortages risk hampering economic growth and job creation while also limiting labour market participation. According to the World Employment Confederation-Europe’s analysis, those shortages are actually largely linked to mismatches between supply and demand and the situation can be addressed by fostering labour market reforms building on four interconnected pillars.


In a Strategic Issue Paper “Making Better Matches”, released in August 2022, the World Employment Confederation-Europe sets out how the private employment services sector can contirbute in each of these four pillars and make some policy recommendations that should enable the private employment services sector to fully play its role, and therefore should further improve labour markets in Europe.

The Skills We Want 

In a year that proves pivotal for the European instititions, the World Employment Confederation-Europe advocates putting Social Justice at the centre of the next political mandate. Social Justice in Europe needs to be based on a new social contract, which enables an economy and labour market that protects every person, provides skills that empower and set appropriate regulation in times of digitalisation.

The World Employment Confederation-Europe fully supports the strategic priorities adopted at the Granada European Summit in 2023. In its Manifesto for the 2024 European elections “The Europe We Want”, the HR services industry identifies areas of specific interest and importance which the new European Commission and Parliament should take up, and skills is one of them.

Skills to Empower All in The Labour Market

  • Urgently address skills and labour shortages in Europe, including a focus on legal migration
  • Ensure fair labour mobility, the posting of workers and demand-driven legal migration
  • Design skills policies that equip workers in diverse forms of work with the right skills to succeed
  • Value and promote social dialogue-driven and bipartite forms of providing access to skills and training
  • Strengthen career guidance and transition support in labour markets
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