Are there skill shortages or are all the workers just in the wrong place?

Bryan Hyland 26.04.2016

I was having a discussion with a client recently and we ventured into what hiring and recruitment trends might look like over the coming years.

It quickly became apparent that there will be no constant regarding sourcing talent, it will change and change rapidly to what it looks like now.

Yet skill shortages will worsen as unemployment continues to decline in most developed markets. 

Talent, even more than capital or technology, may be the key factor organisations confront in enabling and sustaining growth. The changing nature of the global talent outlook presents some pressing challenges;

Shifting demographics, ageing populations

Especially in the most developed countries, mean there will be fewer workers supporting a growing number of senior citizens.

In 1950, there were 11.75 people working to each person aged 65+, the same figures in 2011 were 8.5 to each 65+ and it’s projected that in 2050, it will be 3.9 working people to every one person aged 65+.

YearNumber of workers for every one person aged 65+
2011  8.5
2050  3.9

(Ageing societies, Steve Beales, Imperial College London)

Growing global demand

Sustaining economic growth in advanced economies will require a staggering number of new workers over the coming decades who are simply not there. Only in India and some parts of Africa do we see surplus labour force for the future. Issues of labour mobility and innovative use of technology will fill these talent gaps.


These new workers will need new skills for the modern economy. Many countries face a shortage of people educated in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Additionally, there is a recognised shortage of managerial and leadership skills in the commercial and political environment.


How, when, where and why we work are changing. Generational and cultural changes as well as huge expansion of women in the workplace, are altering the nature of work itself. While there are many positive benefits to be hoped from this shift, organisatrions and society as a whole must adapt to these new paradigms.


We are seeing flexibility becoming increasingly important. Among the top factors of concern for global workers include increased work hours, lack of flexibility, stagnant wages, lack of advancement and increased travel.

Outsourcing has questioned the need for expensive networks, particularly given the advances in technology, administration, IT and finance processing being labour intensive, the growing cultural acceptance of flexible / remote working, new online staffing / recruitment platforms proving that high-calibre workers can be sourced and supplied with less and less human intervention and property prices in major cities rising higher than inflation.

Of course the reality is that there is no answer to these questions, but a myriad of evolving solutions requiring new mind-sets, increased use of innovative technology and retaining the importance of people in the solution. While challenging, it brings fantastic opportunities for businesses, entrepreneurs and individuals and I for one, am genuinely excited to see what will be achieved.

Bryan Hyland's picture
Operations Director