How Skills Needs Are Changing across Europe

February 24, 2023 by Mariana Marques

With 2023 being officially the Year of Skills, and with the labour market being increasingly defined by skills rather than jobs, the need to understand how the skills landscape is changing both across geographies and in countries is vital. But when reflecting on what needs to be done to close skills gaps, and reskill and upskill employees, the power of data to shape our understanding and give us answers is crystal clear.

Lightcast hosted a webinar on "Unlocking New Possibilities in the Labour Market in the Year of Skills” to help you understand current skills trends and demand through our data. In our last blog, we discussed the types of skills that are in demand in Europe, as well as some EU initiatives powering this Year of Skills. This time, we share with you how the need for skills is changing and how demand differs across European countries. 

How the demand for skills has changed 

The world of work is shifting and skills that were popular even a few years ago may not be as needed anymore. The opposite is also true: where were AI, machine learning, or even TikTok a decade ago? Certainly not as in demand as they are now. 

Taking the UK as an example, there are significant disparities between skills needs now and a decade ago. Customer support and advertising were two of the most in-demand skills across all sectors in 2013. Now, they don’t even make the top 10 of the list. Different skills have emerged too. Nursing and mental health are now heavily required skills in the UK, as is audit. Yet, in 2013, the demand for these skills was remarkably lower. 

Just in the last few years, one dominant trend has changed the demand for skills across Europe: digitalisation. Skills related to technology, such as programming languages, agile methodology and computer science, are now far more popular. Let’s dive even deeper and explore two skills in particular. 

How is the demand for accounting skills changing across Europe?

In our webinar, we looked at the demand for accounting skills across a number of European countries, with the data showing a significant decline across all but two of them over the last three years. Check out more in the short segment from our webinar below.

Great Britain and Spain were the only countries where the trend was upward, and in the case of Spain, it was only marginally so. A potential reason for the Europe-wide decline could be the availability of accounting software tools that use various technologies to simplify or automate accounting tasks. 

The most significant drops were in France and Austria. In France, accounting was a required skill in close to 6% of unique job postings in 2019, and it’s now present in just below 4.5% of job postings- a drop of over 2%. Yet still, despite this trend, accounting remains one of the most in-demand skills in European countries. 

How is the demand for automation skills changing across Europe?

We also looked at demand for another 'hot topic' skill - automation. As you'll see in the short video below, Automation skills are not nearly as popular as accounting skills, showing up in just over 1% of all job postings in most of the countries we looked at.

Despite all we hear about the rise of automation, what is particularly interesting is that our data shows this is not necessarily uniform across countries. For instance, whilst Britain, Italy and Germany all saw significant growth in the number of job postings mentioning automation as a skill, Belgium and The Netherlands registered a decline. This really does highlight the importance of digging beneath headlines and uncovering more granular insights.

How does skill demand differ across Europe?

Surprisingly or not, each European country has unique strengths and weaknesses when it comes to skillsets available, thus their lists of in-demand skills vary widely. Marketing, finance and agile methodology made it to the top 10 list in the four countries we studied: Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain. Most often than not, however, the differences are significant. 

As an example, Spain’s most in-demand specialised skill is pay-per-click, a unique skill requirement that is far less in demand in the other three countries. Marketing, on the other hand, is fairly consistent and high up on all these countries’ lists. 

This data gives us a lot of clues about the sector strengths of each country. We know, for instance, that Finance is a particularly strong industry in Britain, and so it’s no surprise to see skills such as finance, accounting and auditing being some of the most popular in its list. In Spain, the Technology sector seems to be booming, with some of its most in-demand skills being computer networks, IP addressing, and programming languages such as Python and JavaScript. Similarly, in Germany, there is high demand for skills related to software and computer science. 

There are considerable disparities between these four graphics, which shows the need to dig deep into each country’s skills trends to understand each market. If we look at data solely on a macro level, we risk missing important details in the labour market. 

These details are crucial to understand and analyse because they can lead to different policy consequences, and they will be the basis of important strategies. Whether you are looking for an overview of skills trends in Europe or a specific region, Lightcast has the data.