By Nick Zieminski
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Workers with specialized
skills like electricians, carpenters and welders are in
critically short supply in many large economies, a shortfall
that marks another obstacle to the global economic recovery, a
research paper by Manpower Inc concludes.
"It becomes a real choke-point in future economic growth,"
Manpower Chief Executive Jeff Joerres said. "We believe
strongly this is really an issue in the labor market."
The global staffing and employment services company says
employers, governments and trade groups need to collaborate on
strategic migration policies that can alleviate such worker
shortages. Skilled work is usually specific to a given
location: the work cannot move, so the workers have to.
The shortage of skilled workers is the No. 1 or No. 2
hiring challenge in six of the 10 biggest economies, Manpower
found in a recent survey of 35,000 employers. Skilled trades
were the top area of shortage in 10 of 17 European countries,
according to the survey.
While the short-term way to address to shortages is to
embrace migration, the long-term solution is to change
attitudes toward skilled trades, Manpower argues.
Since the 1970s, parents have been told that a university
degree -- and the entry it affords into the so-called knowledge
economy -- was the only track to a financially secure
profession. But all of the skilled trades offer a career path
with an almost assured income, Joerres said, and make it
possible to open one's own business.
In the United States, recession and persistent high
unemployment may lead parents and young people entering the
workforce to reconsider their options.
The skilled trades category also includes jobs like
bricklayers, cabinet makers, plumbers and butchers, jobs that
typically require a specialist's certification.
Older, experienced workers are retiring and their younger
replacements often do not have the right training because their
schools are out of touch with modern business needs. Also
contributing to the shortage is social stigma attached to such
work, Manpower argues in its paper published Wednesday.
A poll of 15-year-olds by the Organization for Economic
Cooperation and Development found only one in 10 American
teenagers see themselves in a blue-collar job at age 30. The
proportion was even lower in Japan.
Education could address that stigma. Students should be
reminded that blue-collar work can be lucrative: skilled
plumbers can make upwards of $75,000 a year, Manpower argues.
Overall, Manpower's fifth annual talent shortage survey
found 31 percent of employers worldwide are having difficulty
filling positions due to the lack of suitable workers available
in their markets, up one percentage point over last year.
AN EMOTIVE ISSUE
Although the proportion of employers seeing shortages is
still below pre-recession levels, shortages in some countries
are more critical than the global average.
Majorities of those surveyed in Poland, Singapore,
Argentina and Brazil reported shortages. In Japan, 76 percent
had trouble finding the right workers, the highest reading
among the 36 countries and territories.
Examples of successful, targeted migration include an Ohio
shipbuilder that brought in experienced workers from Mexico and
Croatia, and a French metal-parts maker that hired Manpower to
find welders in Poland.
Obstacles to such migration include differing standards for
certification in skilled trades, as well as political barriers
to immigration, which remains an "emotive" subject in many
countries, Manpower's CEO said. Japanese employers, for
example, have difficulty attracting skilled workers.
Sweden, on the other hand, is innovative and aggressive
about strategic migration, for example by removing obstacles to
workers being recertified in their specialty, Joerres said.
(Reporting by Nick Zieminski, editing by Dave Zimmerman)