Scandinavia desperately needs more skilled workers

Demand for skilled labour far outstrips supply in Sweden, which tops the Global Skills Index again this year. The index quantifies how easy or difficult it is for firms to attract and retain the most talented workers. PHOTO: REUTERS

COPENHAGEN/STOCKHOLM (BLOOMBERG) - "Even though our weather is just as bad as in Britain, we still have a lot to offer." So wrote a former Danish economy minister in The Guardian this month in an attempt to lure skilled European workers concerned by Brexit.

Scandinavian industry has long complained about shortages. Now, it has an ally. Hays Plc, a recruiting specialist, has published its latest annual report into supply and demand for skilled workers in 33 major economies.

Its Global Skills Index, compiled with the help of Oxford Economics, uses seven indicators (ranging from education flexibility to wage pressure in high-skill occupations) to quantify how easy or difficult it is for firms to attract and retain the most talented workers (a score above 5 suggests the labour market is under pressure).

Like last year, topping the index is Sweden, where demand for skilled labour far outstrips supply, meaning wages in high-skilled industries have been surging.

The mismatch is so acute that Sweden risks missing out now that the rest of Europe is seeing an upswing, according to Torbjorn Halldin, an economist at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

Ranked third is Denmark, whose score has increased by more than any other country this year. The Confederation of Danish Industry said the results are in line with its own findings that "nearly 4 out of 10 of our member companies have had difficulty recruiting qualified employees".

Deputy director Steen Nielsen apportions some of the blame on Denmark's decision to increase the amount of money a non-EU worker must earn to qualify for a working visa.

The move was pushed by the opposition Social Democrats and the nationalist Danish People's Party as part of concerted efforts to reduce the inflow of foreign workers.

The key skills in high demand include accountancy in Sweden and software development in Denmark.

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