The challenges and opportunities for Mobility and a Green Transition


On 10 and 11 October, Dr Diederik de Boer, Director at MSM’s Expert Centre on Emerging Economies (ECEE) and Associate Professor Sustainable Business Development attended the Vienna Migration Conference. At the event the unfolding geopolitical dynamics, global trends and the current EU migration agenda was discussed.

Dr De Boer joined the "Mobility and Green Transition" event as a speaker to review the current state of play of the green economy and labour market needs and discuss how major initiatives such as the European Green Deal, the EU’s Skills Agenda, and the New Pact on Migration and Asylum can contribute to advancing a new paradigm that turns climate crisis into opportunity.

During this session, Dr De Boer shared among others his insights on the impact, challenges and opportunities of the green transition on labour markets and skills systems. He stated that “as a world we are looking at green energy, green minerals and green workers to be provided by often digital solutions: green technologies, finance and not to forget entrepreneurs. The challenges are distilled from here. In the world there are stronger and weaker economies, but we all have the same challenges but different resources to tackle them. In order to analyse this, it is important to look at the supply and demand side of the Labour market and the skills.

The demands are huge but differ per region. In many places in Africa there is a hunger to learn better skills, while in Europe people are pickier and there is a growing shortage of skilled labour. In general, stronger economies need more skilled workers in the green economies and weaker ones have more workers to offer who are not yet skilled.

In the Netherlands for example, we face the hurdles of reducing greenhouse gas-emissions with 50% by 2030 and shortages in the ICT, technology and specialised management sectors. Of the 425000 vacancies we have in these sectors in the Netherlands, around 25% of the vacancies are difficult to fill. The challenge of filling these vacancies relate to a decreasing number of youngsters going for a beta study, people who are interested to switch career fields face learning requirements and loss of income, an aging population and lastly there are difficulties coordinating this movement towards these areas. These challenges are not limited to the Netherlands, they are also exemplary for Europe.

When looking at Africa, there is a surplus of skilled labour in weaker regions and unemployment rates vary between 10 to 30%. Moreover, in Africa there are also untapped green minerals and green energy resources which Europe sometimes is lacking. And at the same time Africa is having challenges with weak educational systems, weak business landscapes and weak infrastructure.

So, what are then the opportunities we are having? First of all, it is about matchmaking. How can we better link areas with shortages and abundances of the untapped resources with each other in terms of products and people. It is about matchmaking in countries itself in terms of supply and demand but also between countries in the region and between regions like Europe and Africa.

Matchmaking could finally result in better educational infrastructure, better educational programs in Africa which are more adapted to the green economy demand and in Europe it could lead to having better policies attracting more workers in the green economy including more female, unemployed but also migrant workers.”

Policies to support mobility

Furthermore, the session dived into the policy side of the green transition and mobility. Policies need to clearly identify migration and human mobility as a strategy to acquire skills, human capital, expertise, etc. The discussion focused on how to leverage migration and human mobility for low-carbon economies in the interest of the partner countries and their people. Dr De Boer shared that it’s about matchmaking and capacity building. We do this by looking at the policy readiness at three different levels, namely, the environment, the society and the economy. At each of these three layers it’s important to have favourable policies to invest in human capital.

At the environmental layer it’s important that policies relate to the health and vitality of a region or even better, to the world. If we want to create a level playing field, we should have environmental policies which are supported by the host country and by the partner countries. It sets the stage for green business development and to do so it needs to have the required resources and knowledge. Host countries could assist partner-countries in this.

Regarding the societal layer it’s important to assess how to get buy-in from society, whereby role models in the field of the green economy should be promoted both in the field of being a worker as well as a responsible consumer. It’s not possible to start with a low carbon economy transition without getting the society onboard. To stimulate awareness, the Netherlands for example invests into promotional activities at the educational level.

Lastly, there is the economic layer in which it is needed to have policies that promote an equal level playing field of what the new norms at the environmental layer are providing for the businesses. We need a better interplay between retail, producers and to a certain extent consumers and in line with these eco-systems in which entrepreneurs, banks, workers and policy makers are focusing on getting a better thriving green sector in place and in which workers are rewarded better financially and also in terms of image. These types of policies need to be in place in both the host- and partner countries. In order for trade on skills and resources can thrive.

The next step is then to focus on policies that stimulate matchmaking on supply and demand within countries and also between regions which have surpluses in resources and/or skills and in regions that lack these legally and operationally.

How MSM supports the green transition and mobility

MSM’s newly launched MOBILISE project dives into the green transition framework and opportunities regarding mobility to support circular migration. We as Maastricht School of Management are among others exploring circular migration pilots in this project. MOBILISE aims at launching a scalable and institutionally entrenched circular talent development programme between the Netherlands and Tunisia, Egypt and Ethiopia for the strengthening of climate-smart agriculture. The project, which specifically targets the agricultural sector, seeks to meet the demands of the labour market in the participating countries by involving partners from the public and private sector while developing cooperation with local higher educational institutions.

A triple win, not brain drain but brain gain.

To conclude, circular migration is an option to increase demand for skills in Europe and support skill and knowledge development in partner countries. With circular migration a student or professional comes for a certain period to a host country (in our case, the Netherlands) and then goes back again to the partner country. In this way an eco-system is being that allows returnees to start themselves or find a job because they are better educated. They can also go to a host country twice. This set-up is called a “triple win” where partner country, host country and the individual benefit. And not only brain drain but also brain gain as people are returning.

MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies

The MOBILISE project is part of MSM's Expert Centre on Emerging Economies. The department is an expert centre on local economic development in emerging and developing markets.‚Äč We capacitate managers and professionals from government, private sector, NGOs, and post-secondary education in Africa, Asia, Middle East, and Latin America. We offer consultancy and customized training programs, and we manage complex projects in key sectors, e.g. water, agriculture and health. For more information click here.

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