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Charles Kenny (CGD): ‘The labour shortage is Europe's real migrant crisis'

Europe looks set for an unprecedented labour shortage by 2050. “Too many people in Europe see migration as a problem not a solution”, says Charles Kenny, senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), in an interview with ToTalent.

Jasper Spanjaart on March 04, 2022 Average reading time: 3 min
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Charles Kenny (CGD): ‘The labour shortage is Europe's real migrant crisis'

As recruiters work around the clock and do everything within their power to fill vacancies, sometimes — and perhaps too often — their work is no avail. Europe is currently in the midst of a talent crisis of their own. Recruiters are more stressed than ever. The right candidates are increasingly harder to find. But it may just be the tip of the iceberg. While the increased number of vacancies across the continent poses an immediate problem, organisations across Europe face a much larger problem in the long-run.

That problem is called ageing. According to an extensive study conducted by the United Nations, Europe will have 95 million fewer working-age people (between 20 and 64) in 2050 than in 2015. Some countries come off worse than others. Despite leading the charge in automation, Germany is projected to have a continent-leading worker gap of 7 million by 2050. France, meanwhile, looks set for an overall labour shortage of roughly 3.9 million by 2050.

Source: UN

“There will be a lot more retirees who need home and health care, and still an economy to run.”

In many ways, recruiters look set for many stressful years to come. “I think [the talent crisis] will obviously be a lot worse in 2050”, Charles Kenny, senior fellow the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development (CGD), tells ToTalent in an interview. “There will be a lot more retirees who need home and health care, and still an economy to run. We’ll need more IT experts, more sales staff, you name it.”

Europe’s real migrant crisis

With the CGD, Kenny is leading the charge in creating awareness and in-depth analyses for one of Europe’s greatest challenges moving forward. While some people hold onto the migrant crisis as a common denominator for why things aren’t quite going according to plan for the continent, Kenny poses a completely different view. Simply put: there aren’t enough migrants coming through European borders.

“It is time for policymakers in Brussels and London to wake up to the real migrant crisis.”

Charles Kenny

“It’s pretty frustrating”, says Kenny. “Too many people in Europe see migration as a problem, not a solution. Our policies focus on control and limits, not facilitating more and better migration. We need to move from wall building to bridge building: helping to ensure European countries get the skilled workers they need. While the migrants themselves, the countries they come from and the communities they join all share the benefits. It is time for policymakers in Brussels and London to wake up to the real migrant crisis.”

“Setting it up so that people who try to move to a better life are part of a ‘crisis’, an invading army, is part of a small-mindedness that spills over into policies toward global cooperation.”

“It makes Europe a poorer, less interesting place. It diverts talent, money and energy into counterproductive policies and leads to tragedy in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. Setting it up so that people who try to move to a better life are part of a ‘crisis’, an invading army, is part of a small-mindedness that spills over into policies toward global cooperation, toward attitudes around climate change and action against pandemics and toward attitudes to minorities at home. It just makes the world a worse place.”

Is Africa the solution for Europe’s labour shortage?

In the Center for Global Development study, Kenny and co-author Yang zoom in on Africa being a big part of the possible solution for European shortages. But it will require a dramatic shift in policies.  Under business as usual, Kenny and the CGD predict that approximately 29 million African working-age migrants will come to so-called high-income countries. “That number equates to about 4% of the growth in Africa’s workforce over that period. It would be great news for Europe and Africa both if more of the other 96% had chances to migrate, temporarily or permanently, north of the Mediterranean.”

It would be great news for Europe and Africa both if more of the other 96% had chances to migrate, temporarily or permanently, north of the Mediterranean.”

The opportunities are there, according to Kenny. “It means supporting skills development in sending countries through skills partnerships. It means helping migrants integrate through programs like solidarity networks. And it means answering concerns about housing and public services in receiving communities through support for new construction and service expansion.”

“If your workforce doesn’t reflect the demographic makeup of the working age population that suggests you’re probably missing some of that talent.”

While the onus is on policymakers, recruitment and talent acquisition leaders also have a real opportunity, according to Kenny. “I think more staff from recruitment agencies should be getting on planes to Nairobi and Lagos — but they should also look closer to home. We still see real gaps in equal opportunity between men and women and racial majorities and minorities. Talent is equally distributed. And if your workforce doesn’t reflect the demographic makeup of the working age population that suggests you’re probably missing some of that talent.”

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Header photo credit: European migrant crisis by Jim Forest on Flickr.

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Jasper Spanjaart

Jasper Spanjaart

Editor-in-Chief and Writer at ToTalent.eu
Editor-in-Chief and writer for European Total Talent Acquisition platform ToTalent.eu.
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