Europe in dire need of workers

Sheep shearers for Britain, judo
teachers for Spain, goldsmiths for Holland. European nations are finding some
surprising gaps in their job markets, and competing to woo the overseas workers
with in-demand skills.

Nations across the continent list
shortages in hundreds of occupations. Even as some countries tighten their
already strict immigration rules, many are relaxing visa restrictions to help
industries import candidates for the jobs that domestic workers can’t — or won’t
— take up.

Many Europeans refuse low paid
jobs, while failure in the past to plan properly for future labour needs has
left some skilled professionals in short supply.

“Too often the cart has been
put before the horse — in Britain, the government has looked at restricting
immigration first, and only then at the need to train up domestic workers to do
the jobs previously held by foreign workers,” said Abigail Morris, employment
policy adviser at the British Chamber of Commerce.

Britain has its own peculiar
shortages — needing ballet dancers for the famed stage of Covent Garden’s Royal
Opera House and sheep shearers for the windswept slopes of Scottish farms.

But the country’s government will
set a new permanent immigration quota next year, promising to dramatically cut
levels of migration. Business leaders warn the cap will leave the country short
in vital industries.

Members of the European Union allow
citizens of most other members’ states free movement to live and work in their
countries. But their skills shortages mean most also loosen immigration rules
in some specific sectors to be able attract talent from beyond Europe.

While almost all European nations
need skilled medical workers and engineers — particularly for major
infrastructure projects — the shortages aren’t simply confined to hospitals,
construction sites or dental clinics.

In Spain, the Asturias region is
relaxing visa rules to hire judo and aerobics instructors, the Canary Islands
needs forestry experts and the Melilla region, on the coast of north Africa, is
seeking ship cooks, deck hands and waiters.

Sweden’s government says it needs
plumbers, chefs and crane operators. Neighbouring Denmark seeks chiropractors,
midwives and music teachers. While the Netherlands says unfilled jobs postings have
declined in recent years, it still has shortages of carpenters, goldsmiths,
pharmacists and truck drivers.