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Debate: The challenges of dealing with labour shortages

Demographic changes are reducing the share of the population in the 20–64 age group in Slovenia, which makes it difficult to ensure a sufficient supply of labour. IMAD made an analysis of this topical issue and organised a debate with representatives of various offices involved in dealing with these problems, all of whom agree that labour shortage challenges should be addressed comprehensively at all levels.

 

The editor of the analysis, Dr Alenka Kajzer, presented the key findings of the analysis (which is fully available at www.umar.si) as a starting point for further discussion. The analysis addresses the issue of labour shortages from three aspects: an increase in domestic labour supply, the attraction of foreign labour force and integration of foreign workers, and automation of work processes (where possible).

The discussion featured Mr Tilen Božič, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Ms Saša Cvetko, Human Resource Manager at Knauf Insulation, Mr Anton Zvonko Kink, Human Resource Manager and Member of Management Board, Revoz, and Dr Marina Luksic Hacin, the Slovenian Migration Institute ZRC SAZU.

The discussion was chaired by Director of IMAD, Ms Marijana Bednaš, MSc. 

According to Mr Anton Zvonko Kink, Human Resource Manager and Member of Management Board, Revoz, the lack of adequate workforce and an uncertain business environment will become permanent features of the Slovenian business environment. Part of the solution lies in agile business models. “The effectiveness of these solutions is however contingent on economic migration policy and labour law. For best results, it is essential to foster creative cooperation between employers and the government in seeking and implementing solutions in these areas,” Mr Kink emphasized.

The key role of a holistic approach to tackling labour shortage challenges was also stressed by Ms Saša Cvetko, Human Resource Manager at Knauf Insulation, who emphasised the responsibility of all stakeholders in society. The government should, for example, remove administrative barriers, which make it difficult for employers to quickly adjust to labour market changes and is slowing the hiring of foreigners.  It is also vital to create a tax system that does not drive away highly educated domestic workers and is also friendly to foreign experts. Moreover, the school system should pay more attention to the needs of the economy and direct young people to occupations in short supply, while employers have to start preparing their workers for the changes that are to come due to new technologies, robotics and automation, and create an environment that fosters lifelong learning and intergenerational cooperation. “Without a holistic approach and the involvement of all stakeholders, this battle is already lost”, Ms Cvetko emphasised. 

In connection with measures for extending working lives, Mr Tilen Božič, State Secretary at the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, pointed out: "We want to send a message that additional work pays." Measures in the area of economic migration are based on the framework of migration strategy adopted this year, which aims to curb the trend of Slovenian workers leaving the country, promote labour circulation and encourage Slovenians who have been away for a shorter or a longer period to return home. Regarding the integration of foreign workers, Mr Božič also pointed to the recently re-opened info point for foreigners, which operates under the Employment Service of Slovenia. “Its purpose is to provide foreign workers with information about their employment opportunities and rights, which is also important from the perspective of their successful integration into society."

Dr Marina Lukšič Hacin, Head of the Slovenian Migration Institute ZRC SAZU, welcomed the pre-integration measures that are being prepared or already carried out: “What we urgently need is creating an attractive society, state and working environment. In Europe a "fight" for the best workers is underway. It is thus important that Slovenia has started thinking about the possibilities of introducing pre-integration measures to help foreigner workers obtain information about their rights before entering the Slovenian labour market. Our goal should be that people who come to Slovenia stay in Slovenia and are given a chance to become full members of society.“