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Analysis of shortage and surplus occupations 2021

The annual shortage and surplus occupations report analyses skills shortages and surpluses in the EU. This report covers the period between the second half of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, providing insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market.

 Healthcare skills are among the most impacted occupations by the pandemic. Picture Unsplash.

It comes as no surprise that the EU labour market and labour mobility have been impacted considerably by the Covid 19 pandemic. This is one of the key findings of the “Analysis of shortage and surplus occupations 2021”, produced by the European Labour Authority for the first time, to implement Article 30 of EURES Regulation (EU) 2016/5891. 

The annual shortage and surplus occupations report analyses skills shortages and surpluses in the EU. This report covers the period between the second half of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021, providing insights into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market.

The report draws on information provided by EURES network National Coordination Offices of all EURES member countries (EU, EEA and Switzerland).

Key findings and overall trends

The report offers many interesting findings, including overall trends. As a general statistics, almost one in three workers were employed in a labour surplus or shortage occupation in the EU in 2020. And many of the labour shortages and surpluses were rated as being of “high magnitude”.

Many of the most significant labour shortages have been increasing over the last few years. That said, the pandemic is reinforcing the demand for several specific shortage occupations. Not surprisingly, the biggest impact is on the demand for healthcare skills. 

Also, the demand for software professionals has continued to grow, given it’s the well-observed acceleration of the digital transition by the pandemic. There is also an increasing demand for toolmaking and contact information staff.

Toolmakers appear as a shortage for the first time as many toolmaking companies supply specialised tools to the medical devices and pharma sectors -sectors in high levels of production because of the pandemic. 

Information professionals appear for the first time as a severe shortage, probably driven by the enhanced need in various administrative bodies to be reachable through phone or digital means by the citizens during the crisis situation. 

Occupational gender segregation is still a major issue in the European labour market. Fewer than 1 in 3 workers in labour shortages are women. In contrast, 2 in 3 workers in labour surpluses are women. This points towards the continued need to counteract occupational stereotypes and encourage both men and women to work in occupations traditionally dominated by the other gender.

Cross border EURES contributions

The attempt to match  the most widespread labour shortages and surpluses in another country or region resulted in limited success as the most needed occupations show limited supply of labour in most, if not all, countries. In that regard, cross-border matching can solve labour shortages only partially. 

However, the report shows that there is some potential for EURES  to contribute to alleviating shortages in specific labour markets, such as in bordering or culturally close markets. This will be even more necessary in light of the four mega trends on the labour market, particularly green and technological transition and ageing of population. Those trends will determine which skills are needed and where in the future.


The report presents some of the megatrends to look into:

  • The green agenda is and will continue to have an impact on the demand for skills such as related to ‘green production’ or the circular economy.
  • The development of advanced technologies is expected to result in the displacement of some routine tasks, while human-centered tasks will gain importance. 
  • More work will be done remotely, emphasizing the importance of a European tool to make vacancies and jobseekers visible beyond national borders.
  • Shortage in healthcare related skills is to be expected in view of the ageing of the European population and the significant advances made in the efficacy of medical procedures. 
  • Mobile workforce, particularly in border regions, can contribute to satisfy this demand.

How the EURES network can help

The report recommends that its findings be integrated into the programming of EURES activities and used by Public Employment Services’ staff to advise jobseekers on the relative employability of different occupations.

EURES is just one cornerstone in what the report identifies as a required more comprehensive set of policy interventions to ensure a well-functioning labour market, namely:

  • EU and national campaigns, for example, should promote the usefulness of acquiring medium level vocational qualifications – particularly vocational qualifications associated with construction and engineering. 
  • Employers should be encouraged to adopt a ‘human capital management’ approach of staff recruitment and retention. This includes the possibility of recruiting persons who may be under-qualified for the job and upskilling them. 
  • The European Green Deal as well as the Recovery and Resilience Facility of the European Commission very much stress the importance of skills – not only for the elite on the labour market, but even more so for the more disadvantaged ones.
  • Policymakers and employers should also consider how shortage occupations could be made more attractive to jobseekers, through for example introducing more flexible hours or indeed remote working where that is feasible. 

Download here the report 

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