What Digital Skills Are Needed in Europe?

Published on Jul 25, 2023

Updated on Sep 22, 2023

Written by Mariana Marques

Digital skills in Europe

Technology is no longer an esoteric subject only a few can master. It’s mainstream now - and governments want to reap its benefits. Governments are investing heavily in digitalisation, aiming to drive innovation and economic growth and, ultimately, increase the quality of life of their citizens. 

Between 2021 and 2022, 46% of European companies said they took action to embrace more digital processes. But it’s not just about what machines can do - companies need their employees to be digitally savvy too. 

Four out of ten workers in Europe lack basic digital skills, according to the European Commission. From artificial intelligence and big data analytics to cybersecurity and cloud computing, digital skills are the currency of prosperity in today's labour market. 

Some sectors are far more digitally driven than others - consider IT and finance, for instance. Other more customer-centric sectors, such as retail, whilst not placing technology at the centre of what they do, nevertheless rely on it far more than they did just a few years ago. Yet, in one way or another, digitalisation is affecting us all. The question is: are we prepared to embark on this journey?

This blog analyses the digital skills employers seek in Europe across different sectors and countries. 

The impact of digitalisation on recruitment activity in Europe

We analysed five European countries: France, Italy, Germany, the UK, and Spain, to understand general trends and disparities between different countries. Between 2019 and 2022, there was a clear frontrunner - In Germany, almost half of the job postings requested at least one digital skill. The remaining countries weren’t far behind, with 4 out of 10 job postings mentioning at least one digital skill as a critical requirement for the role.  

Looking at growth trends, all countries except Italy have shown increased demand for digital skills over the last three years. Despite some variations between 2019 and 2021, the trend is upward, reflecting the increased investment in technology and the need for organisations to have digitally skilled employees. France stands out with a growth of 14%, while Germany’s gain of 2% is much more modest.

How important are digital skills, really?

When understanding the demand for digital skills in job postings, it’s worth comparing it to other types of skills employers seek, their frequency of occurrence in job postings, and how they stack up against each other. Enter skills degrees.

Skills degrees represent the share of a type of skill in job postings. For instance, if a job posting has a digital skill degree of 40%, it means that 40% of all skills requirements mentioned in that posting are digital. We analysed three types of skills: digital, specialised (any technical skill that is non-digital), and common, also known as soft skills. 

The graphic below shows that digital skills take up a significant share of all skills requirements across job postings in all five countries - between a fifth to a third. Job postings in Spain request the highest volume of digital skills (a skills degree of 32%), and Germany takes second place, with digital skills taking up 27% of all skills requirements in job postings. The lowest share of digital skills is seen in France - 19%. 

What digital skills are in demand across Europe? 

We know digital skills are essential. But that’s not quite enough to get a good grasp of the skills national labour markets need. From the apps we use daily to communicate with our colleagues to the world of the metaverse and quantum computing - all these things are powered by some kind of technology and, therefore, part of the broad “digital” spectrum. When analysing digital skills trends, two types of digital skills are prevalent:

  • Productivity technology and tools include Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft Office is the most sought-after digital skill across all five countries, but Excel and PowerPoint also made it to the top 10. Nowadays, it’s unthinkable not to use productivity or communication software in office settings, and remote work has exacerbated that. 

  • Advanced digital skills - these are geared towards the computer science field and include the knowledge of programming languages, automation, and forecasting. Though not as widely used in all office settings, the demand for IT roles and IT-related skills has grown with companies becoming increasingly tech-oriented. For instance, computer science is the third most in-demand digital skill in Europe.  

Digital skills demand across sectors 

Exploring further, we can see how different sectors have unique digital skills needs. In Construction, the share of job postings requiring at least one digital skill is much lower than the average across all industries. However, there is a noticeable upward trend in the demand for digital skills in construction roles. Between 2019 and 2022, the UK recorded a growth of 26%, Italy of 28%, and Spain an impressive 48% - all outpacing the average increase. 

In healthcare, most of the required skills are soft skills, reflecting the job's people-focused nature. For instance, caregiving is present in 14.6% of job postings across all five countries, while the most in-demand digital skill, record keeping, is only present in 1.1%. 

Lastly, the picture looks slightly different in manufacturing, with digital skills taking a more critical role. For instance, 26% of manufacturing job postings in Germany mention digital skills. However, both in Germany and Italy, the trend is actually declining. The digital skills requested for manufacturing are more advanced too. Aside from Microsoft Office, the top 10 includes skills such as Computer-Aided-Design and systems engineering. 

What digital skills are needed in your area or organisation? 

Keeping up with the ever-evolving digital landscape is challenging but necessary. Now that you have an overview of Europe's latest digital skills trends, how can you apply these insights to your work? 

If you are an educational institution, by understanding what digital skills are in demand in your area or sector and what skills your local talent has, you can map out digital skills gaps that can be used to review the curriculum. Similarly, as a business or talent leader, you can understand how your company performs compared to competitors or industry averages, where to find the best talent, and how you can change your current workforce planning using skills. Lastly, governmental agencies can also take this data and insights to consult the private or public sector and help other organisations unlock the power of digital skills. 

The opportunities are endless, and Lightcast can help you find them. Contact our team below if you want to explore our unparalleled skills data or see how we can best support you.

Ready to Solve Problems Together?