A new era of the labour market?

19 July 2023

We spend more than a third of our time working. People move to other countries for work, learn different languages to improve their career prospects and learn new skills to adapt to the labour market changes.

Creating new jobs should be facilitated, and working conditions must be improved. The employment ministers of the EU member states have much to say on how to do so, and so do cities across Europe.

New era, new jobs

The labour market is gradually transforming into a new – green and digital – world.

Last week, European ministers gathered informally in Madrid to highlight the importance of social dialogue to support the shifts in the labour market driven by the green and digital transition. However, no one should be left behind in this process.

Investment in digital skills has become fundamental considering the digital revolution unfolding globally. The EU has made addressing the digital skills gap the priority; while declaring the year 2023 as the European Year of Skills.

Cities are crucial actors in addressing the most critical challenges and need related to skills at the local level. “Cities’ contribution to the co-creation and implementation of EU policies in this field has a significant impact, and they are at the forefront of reaching out to marginalised groups thanks to their close connection with citizens,” states Michaela Lednova, Head of Eurocities Social Affairs Forum.

Man holding a laptop with a person and security lock icon
Digital data

This participatory approach in digital transition on local level benefits all societal groups. Thus, understanding cities’ experiences providing digital skills is invaluable in shaping EU and national policies towards just digital transition. Still, cities also need national and EU support to achieve the goals in the Agenda.

To better understand the existing measures taken by cities to provide digital skills, Eurocities surveyed its members in Spring 2022 and published a cities social trends paper on digital skills. The role of cities as catalysts for inclusive digital skills development was also discussed during the latest Eurocities Social Innovation Lab in Braga in the spring of this year.

Incomes as the minimum

Minimum income was another topic addressed by the ministers. The Spanish presidency plans to analyse the quality of minimum incomes across the member states.

Although minimum income is a national competency, cities are affected by decisions on this matter as they are at the front lines of supporting unemployed or impoverished people. In addition, we should not forget that municipalities frequently step up to cover those gaps that insufficient minimum income schemes are triggering.

Last year, Eurocities launched a cities social trends paper on minimum income, highlighting the critical gaps that cities have witnessed regarding the adequacy, coverage, access, and take-up of minimum pay and providing recommendations.

Therefore, cities need to be adequately included in the policy debates to reform the minimum income schemes to adequately tackle gaps and achieve the objective of reducing poverty.

Population is ageing

Population ageing is an essential demographic trend in Europe that has also impacted the roles and opportunities in the job market. Urban ageing is not a future problem but the present, with a shortage of workforce in an utterly gender-unbalanced sector.

Commissioner Schmit highlighted the importance of facilitating good employment conditions, ensuring at the same time that those conditions benefit both the care workers and those being taken care of.

“Cities often face more difficulties in the employment market due to a greater gender disbalance in the workforce and the growing care sector that already faces a shortage of staff,” said  Tom van Benthem, Strategic Policy Advisor at Amsterdam City Council and Chair of Eurocities Working Group on Urban Ageing, in an interview with Eurocities.

Old crossed hands
Photo by Eduardo Barrios

Population ageing raises common challenges for cities, which need to adapt their environments physically and socially to safeguard the quality of life of the elderly and those with care needs. Also, improving recognition of care work is needed, which impacts mainly women.

To better understand the measures cities took to provide long-term care services, Eurocities conducted a relevant survey of its members in early 2022, followed by a report on long-term care. The survey sought to map out the local situation of long-term care of the elderly and the critical challenges in the field.

Where are we now?

The total employed population in the EU is 198,220.000 (2021), according to the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training. In all member states, the employment rate in 2022 was higher than in 2021, as reported by Eurostat.

A big part of those employees works in cities. Future jobs are likely to be located in urban environments. And city municipalities are the level of government that will train on new skills and develop care strategies for those in need.

In addition to all the challenges mentioned above, the gender employment gap is still a pending issue worldwide. The EU employment rate for men for 2022 is more than 10% higher than for women. Women are also more likely to have precarious, temporary, part-time and unofficial jobs, such as the ones in the care sector.

Population ageing will likely redefine the job market, influencing the nature and availability of jobs. “Cities are already engaged in proactive planning for the new era of jobs through strategic plans, through supporting life-long learning and reskilling and support measures to face the transformation,” wraps up Lednova.


Marta Buces Eurocities Writer