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#WorldSkills - Final preparations under way for major international conference to address growing skills crisis in labour market

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Industry leaders, policy-makers, education and training providers, and researchers will converge on Kazan, Russia next month for the WorldSkills Conference.

Alongside the same event, more than 1,600  young people from 63 nations will also compete to be world champions in 56 different skills across a wide range of industries — from joinery to floristry; hairdressing to electronics; and autobody repair to bakery.

Young Professionals (WorldSkills Russia) Union Director General Robert Urazov said the skills summit, in terms of scale and calibre of participants, is comparable to the famous Davos economic forum.

He said: “In addition to a competition, we will seek to offer the world essential changes in the talent training system.”

Participants will discuss current challenges and trends, ranging from economic shocks and climate change to technological transformation. Various sessions will examine solutions and advantages that skills offer to these ‘megatrends’ and how skills will be integral to a better future for us all.

The event, on 23-24 August, comes amid concern about a growing skills gap in Europe and elsewhere.

Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev, of the leading nuclear energy company, is among those who has voiced concern. Writing in the French Les Echos, he called for an expert task-force to be set up to address “the creeping global skills crisis.”

He says the issue is a problem of comparable gravity to climate change but one which “has been blithely batted away as peripheral by top policy-makers across the world for too long now”.

“In a decade or so from now, when the last of the baby-boomers ride into the sunset with no replacement in sight, the void left behind is not only likely to be a threat to economic growth but worse still to human lives,” he wrote.

The WorldSkills Conference and the WorldSkills championship, expected to be attended by Russia’s president Vladimir Putin and other leaders, will ask pressing questions, including; how can we train an agile generation of skilled young people for the future and how will they stay relevant in the face of economic, social and technological transformations?

It will address issues relating to vocational education and training (VET), skills demand, skills of the future as well as skills excellence and development.

One of the legacies of previous WorldSkills Competitions is the increased visibility of skilled professional education, as one of the tools of social and economic transformation.

The competition also provides leaders in industry, government, and education with the opportunity to exchange information and best practices regarding industry and professional education.

Leila Fazleeva, from the organizers, said the summit “will be an important event not only in the history of Russia but also in the history of all world competitions”.

The scale of the skills crisis was highlighted recently by a KPMG report that warned the skills shortage was at a “‘tipping point’ that cannot be ignored”.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development says Japan, the United States and major European economies such as France and Spain showed some of the biggest disparities between the skills that employers need and those available in the workforce. Much of the mismatch reflected strong demand for high-tech jobs but insufficient supply of trained staff.

The OECD said: “The educational systems around the world are not geared up to churn out enough of the people with these sorts of higher level skills.”

A special guest at the opening ceremony in Kazan will be Sophia, the only robot on the planet that has been granted citizenship and a passport.

The summit is divided into three main areas, addressing changes in technology and economies, society, and the environment.

“All three of them will analyze the associated impact on talent training approaches,” said Fazleeva.

“The event is aimed at promoting professionalism, craft, and vocational occupations the global economy needs so much.”

Jaime Saavedra, who leads the Education Global Practice at the World Bank Group, will speak at a panel called 'A world at risk: developing the skill sets to endure, adapt, and thrive'.

He will focus on education and teachers who, he believes, have a key role in addressing the skills gap. “Every country has committed and enthusiastic teachers, who enrich and change the lives of millions of children,” he says.

The WorldSkills movement gives young professionals from all countries an opportunity to learn the best global practices in the area of vocational occupations and also help its 80-plus member countries develop their economies.

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.

Even in France, where unemployment is stuck at more than 9 per cent and among the highest in Europe, an increasing number of companies are complaining about the lack of skilled workers, according to Inséé, the country’s national statistical institute.

By 2030 the world might face a drastic shortage of highly qualified personnel, according to research by Korn Ferry Hay Group. For Russia this could lead to a shortage of 2.8 million highly skilled workers that could cause $300 billion in losses for businesses.

China, meantime, is waking up to a potentially damaging mismatch in its labour market. A record 7.27 million graduates - equivalent to the entire population of Hong Kong - will enter the job market this year; a market that has a shortage of skilled workers.

In 2021, WorldSkills will be held in Shanghai and some are looking to Russia, this year’s host, China and France, who will bid to host WorldSkills Competition 2023, to promote action to plug the skills gap.

EU

Transport MEPs list main steps to make EU roads safer

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The goal of zero deaths on European roads by 2050 calls for more robust measures on road safety, such as, 30 km/h speed limit or zero-tolerance for drink-driving, Transport MEPs say, TRAN.

Speeding is a key factor in around 30% of fatal road crashes, Transport MEPs note. They call on the Commission to come up with a recommendation to apply safe speed limits, such as maximum speed of 30km/h in residential areas and areas where there are high numbers of cyclists and pedestrians. To further promote safe road use, they also urge to set a zero-tolerance drink-driving limit, highlighting that alcohol is involved in around 25% of all road fatalities.

The draft resolution also welcomes the recent revision of the General Safety Regulation, which will make new advanced safety features in vehicles such as intelligent speed assistance and emergency lane keeping systems mandatory in the EU as from 2022, with the potential to save around 7 300 lives and avoid 38 900 serious injuries by 2030. Moreover, MEPs ask the Commission to consider the incorporation of a “driving safe mode” for mobile and electronic devices of drivers in order to inhibit distractions while driving.

Tax incentives and attractive motor insurance schemes for the purchase and use of vehicles with the highest safety standards should be pursued, MEPs add.

European road transport agency

To properly implement the next steps in the EU road safety policy, new capacities are needed in the field of road safety, says the draft text. Therefore, Transport MEPs call on the Commission to establish a European road transport agency to support sustainable, safe and smart road transport.

EP Rapporteur Elena Kountoura (The Left, EL) said: “Strong political will by the national governments and the European Commission is essential to do what it takes to halve road fatalities by 2030 and move decisively towards Vision Zero by 2050. We must mobilise more investments towards safer road infrastructure, make sure that cars are equipped with the best life-saving technologies, establish speed limits of 30 km/h in cities across Europe, adopt zero tolerance on drink-driving and ensure strict enforcement of road traffic rules.”

Next steps

The resolution on EU Road Safety Policy Framework now needs to be voted by the full house of the Parliament, possibly during the September session.

Background

This report serves as Parliament’s formal response to the Commission’s new approach to EU road safety for the years 2021-2030, and its EU Road Safety Policy Framework 2021-2030.

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Economy

NextGenerationEU €20 billion bond issuance seven times oversubscribed

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The European Commission reached a key milestone in the implementation of its recovery plan, by issuing €20 billion of debt to fund NextGenerationEU. The bonds were seven times oversubscribed despite the very modest level of interest at 0.1%. All in all, the EU will raise €800bn on the capital markets to fund what is hoped will be a transformative programme of investment across the continent. 

Commission President von der Leyen said: “This is the largest ever institutional bond issuance in Europe and I'm very pleased that it has  attracted very strong interest by a wide range of investors.”

Some have described Europe’s decision to issue bonds in this was as a ‘Hamiltonian moment’, Commissioner Hahns said: “I want to be a little bit more modest, concrete and self-confident by rather saying: this is a truly European moment, as it demonstrates the EU's innovation and transformative power.”

How green does your garden grow?

Commissioner Hahn said that the EU would be issuing green bonds in the autumn. The EU will launch them once it has settled on its EU Green Bond Standard, this will double the current volume of green bonds in the market. Hahn compared it to the way the SURE bonds have tripled the social bond market. Green bonds will account for around 30% of the EU’s overall borrowing amounting to around €270bn in current prices.  

Persona non grata

Asked about the decision of the European Commission to exclude certain banks from this round of issuance, Hahns said that though many of the banks had met the criteria to participate in the primary dealer network, there were outstanding legal issues that needed to be resolved. He said: “Banks have to demonstrate and to prove that they have taken all the necessary remedial action that has been demanded by the Commission,” but added: “We have a way interest to include all the key players and banks, which have qualified themselves for the primary dealer network but of course, the sort of the the legal aspects have to be respected.”

In May 2021, the European Commission found that several banks had breached EU antitrust rules through the participation of a group of traders in a cartel in the primary and secondary market for European Government Bonds (‘EGB'). Some of the banks involved were not fined because their infringement fell outside the limitation period for the imposition of fines. The fines on the others totalled €371 million.

Fund managers lead the table

The demand was dominated by fund managers (37%), and bank treasuries (25%) followed by central banks / official institutions (23%). In terms of region, 87% of the deal was distributed to European investors, including the UK (24%), 10% to Asian investors and 3% Investors from the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.

Background

NextGenerationEU will raise up to around €800bn between now and  the end of 2026. This translates as borrowing of roughly €150bn per year, which will be repaid by 2058.

With the SURE programme the Commission issued bonds and transferred the proceeds directly to the beneficiary country on the same terms that it received (in terms of interest rate and maturity). This worked for small funding needs, but the size and complexity of the NextGenerationEU programme requires a diversified funding strategy. 

Multiple funding instruments (EU bonds with different maturities, some of which will be issued as NextGenerationEU green bonds, and EU-Bills - securities with a shorter maturity) and techniques (synidcation - usually preferred by supranational issuers, and auctions - usually preferred by nation states) wil be used to maintain flexibility in terms of market access and to manage liquidity needs and the maturity profile. 

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Greece

Greek strike against labour reform bill disrupts Athens transport

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Public transport staff in Athens went on strike for the second time in a week on Wednesday (16 June) before a parliamentary vote on a law the government says will revamp outdated labour rules but which unions fear will bring longer hours and weaker rights, writes Angeliki Koutantou, Reuters.

Ships remained docked at ports, and many bus, subway and railway services were suspended as transport staff walked off the job. Workers from other sectors also held work stoppages and were expected to join several protest rallies in central Athens before the vote on the bill later on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' conservative government, which took office in 2019, said the reform would modernise "antiquated" laws dating back decades to a pre-internet time when most workers clocked into offices and factories at the same set hours.

Trade unions have described the draft law as a "monstrosity". They want the government to withdraw the bill, which they say will reverse long-established workers' rights and allow companies to bring in longer hours through the back door.

The most disputed part of the bill allows employees to work up to 10 hours on one day and less time on another. Unions fear that will enable employers to force workers to accept longer hours.

The bill would also give workers the right to disconnect outside office hours and introduce a "digital work card" from next year to monitor employees working hours in real time, as well as increase legal overtime to 150 hours a year.

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