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Can the EU Attract Skills and Talent?

By Jackline Wahba

Jackline Wahba reflects on the recent Communication from the European Commission looking at attracting skills and talent to the EU and discusses its strengths and shortcomings.
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The European Union is facing a major challenge due to the ageing and declining of its working population, as well as skill shortage in major occupations in specific sectors. Relying on intra-EU mobility is no longer sufficient to address current and future labour market needs. Hence, the EU needs to attract migrants with skills and talents from outside. On 27 April 2022, the European Commission published a Communication to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on ‘Attracting Skills and Talent to the EU’. The Communication discusses operational and legislative initiatives to attract skills and talent to the EU.

The Communication proposes a pillar focusing on simplifying migration procedures and providing migrants with better rights. Proposals to streamline migration procedures and reduce the cost and the administrative burden for employers are indeed necessary. Also, to make the EU more attractive to talents, it calls to make it easier to fulfil the residence requirement for third-country nationals to acquire EU long-term resident status by considering the total accumulated residence periods in the different Member States. However, a major legislatively hurdle for skilled migrants is the recognition of foreign qualifications, which needs simplification and transparency, and is critical in reducing frictions in the EU labour market. This is an issue that is not directly tackled in the Communication.  

One important initiative aimed at addressing skill shortage in the Communication– while also ensuring that emigration does not lead to brain drain in the countries of origin – is the ‘Talent Partnerships’. These would combine support for skill development and human capital investment with work mobility schemes. Increasing investments in training in countries of origin has the potential to benefit their economic development while also helping to address labour shortages in certain sectors or occupations of Member States, such as care workers. In particular, tailor-made Talent Partnerships, if well designed, can provide the required training to increase skills that could benefit both origin and the EU.

The Communication also proposes to establish an ‘EU Talent Pool’ which would be an EU-wide platform that matches potential skilled migrants with employers. The Talent Pool would map and document the skills of interested candidates (potential migrants) from non-EU countries to enable EU employers to mobilise talent and facilitate skill matching. This is a very ambitious initiative, especially if it aims to be an EU-wide platform. It is also unclear how it would constitute a real contribution considering existing job search platforms.

In conclusion, it is evident that as the global competition for talent is growing, the EU needs to attract skills and talent. Although the proposed initiatives are needed, the first step of facilitating the recognition of foreign qualifications is crucial. In addition, some of the previously mentioned initiatives, such as the ‘EU Talent Pool’, are perhaps far too ambitious for the complex reality. Finally, an important missing pillar has to do with ensuring a welcoming community for migrants. Without changing misconceptions about immigration in the EU and the hostile attitudes toward migration in some regions, migrants with talent and skills will go to where they are welcomed (Di Iasio and Wahba, 2021).

Additional Information

Authors of Original Article


Di Iasio V. and Wahba J. (2021). Natives’ Attitudes and Immigration Flows to Europe. QuantMig Project Deliverable D3.3. Southampton: University of Southampton.