The world of work is transforming. Some people fear that digitalisation will destroy jobs and put workers in a race against machines. I am not one of them.

I believe digitalisation can be a force for better quality work, unleashing higher productivity and opening up new opportunities to work in different ways. For this to happen, we must set the right framework. We must set the right conditions to enable people, everyone and not just a ‘happy few’, to reap the benefits from the digital era.

Preparing for a digital future

One crucial condition is that people have the right skills. In the near future, nearly all jobs will require some level of digital skills, from the simplest to the most complex. The number of unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals is expected to almost double to 756000 by 2020. Furthermore, almost half the EU population lacks basic digital skills, with around 20% of people having none at all. 39% of companies report that they have difficulties finding suitably skilled ICT professionals.

We need to change this if we want our people and our economy to prosper.

That’s why the European Commission put forward a new “Skills Agenda for Europe” last year in June. It sets out 10 actions to make the most of Europe’s human capital, which is crucial to keep Europe on a competitive edge and growing. One of its focus areas for example is developing digital skills and helping low-skilled adults acquire a minimum level of digital skills. Another area we focus on is better skills intelligence – understanding skills bottlenecks and anticipating needs, including through stronger business-education partnerships. Education needs to be more responsive to labour market needs.

Tackling the challenges

Moreover, our recently proposed flagship initiative “European Pillar of Social Rights” is an important contribution to tackle the challenges of the digital economy. Making sure that labour markets are fair and function properly today and tomorrow is at the heart of the European Pillar of Social Rights. This means that people should have the right skills and have access to education, training and lifelong learning throughout their careers.

It is crucial that everyone is on board: Member States, which are in charge of education and training, businesses and education providers – they need to work closer together to make sure the skills learned are the skills needed on today’s work floor. Only by joining forces we can make sure that digitalisation is not something we undergo, but that we actively shape and profit from!