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THE labour market is a tricky place. It is not simply matching those unemployed with those hiring. A job-seeker wants to find the perfect job, while the HR manager looks for the perfect employee. Because of this we often have mismatch unemployment, where you just can't seem to find what you are looking for. This can be a serious problem, and it appears to be getting worse.

A NEW study by American researchers looked at the situation in North America. They came to the conclusion that up to a third of the increased unemployment rate could be explained by mismatch unemployment. In particular, it is worse for skilled workers and those with high education.

A FEW generations ago mismatch unemployment was rare. An unskilled worker in the 1930s could help a farmer harvest his crops, build roads for the state or work on an assembly line. Today much of Finland's economy requires specialised skills. A software developer for a gaming company could have a hard time going to work for a big data consultant. Finland currently has 32,500 job vacancies, despite an ever-increasing unemployment rate.

A PERFECT example of our problem is the public sector, such as in civil service, education and health care. The number of employees dropped by 6,000 over the past year, but they also have 8,400 open positions. This is a clear indication that they are having difficulties matching the supply and demand of specialty labour: they have too many people in some areas and not enough in others.

AT THE end of October, the International Labour Organisation published a study about the skills mismatch in Europe. They point out that providing workers with new skills – the prime response of developed countries to globalisation – won't improve their chances if those skills don't match what is demanded by employers.

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David J. Cord
(This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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