Big data for skills policy

Perspectives on policy and practice: Tapping into the potential of big data for skills policy” is the title of a newly published report prepared by the Inter-Agency Working Group on skill mismatch, of which the ETF is a member together with a number of other organizations including Cedefop, the European Commission, the ILO, UNESCO and the OECD.

The report was released on the occasion of the Cedefop high level conference on skills intelligence “Getting the future right: Towards smarter and people-centred skills intelligence”, held on 13 April and attended by the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, who highlighted the importance of the right information for decision-making on skills for the future. 

Policymakers need faster and more detailed information on skills to monitor and respond to the challenges created by social and economic trends and the Covid-19 pandemic. Web-based big data has potential for skills policy, but analysis requires more effort than conventional approaches.

ETF partner countries

The interagency report includes examples of big data initiatives across the globe, including from the ETF partner countries, where the use of digital tools and online portals – public and private – for posting and managing job vacancies is growing. In parallel, big data are used to detect emerging skills needs in economic sectors.

The ETF has launched a dis­cussion with national stakeholders in partner countries about possible actions that might help developing and transition countries in tapping the potential of big data for labour market intelli­gence. Two full-scale big data pilots were implemented in Tunisia and Ukraine which will continue in 2021 with the addition of a third country. The ETF country level activities have also included the use of big data analysis at sectoral level in Israel (agri-tech), Turkey (automotive) and Mo­rocco (agri-business) which have produced highly relevant findings validated and complemented by national stakeholders.

Low-income countries can benefit from big data analysis but at the same time statistical, selection and conceptual biases can be more challenging. Although complicated and resource-intensive, developing a stable and well-functioning system for gathering, processing, and analysing big data can pay off in the long-run. Nevertheless, web-based big data should not replace other skills intelligence methods and sources. Exploiting the complementarities of big data and other sources of skills intelligence is key in generating statistically robust, detailed, and policy-relevant evidence.


The interagency working group on skill mismatch is a platform to facilitate cooperation and knowledge exchange between key international players in skills and vocational education and training (VET).

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