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EU kicks off the talent incentive mechanism

Photo credit: European Union, 2021 - Photographer: Claudio CentonzeThe initiative, presented by the European Commission, responds to the challenges posed by the demographic transition at EU level through eight strategic initiatives and a strong use of European funds to train, retain and attract working-age citizens.

From an ageing population to increasing geographical disparities in employment, Europe is also facing the effects of recent events such as Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic or the Russian military aggression against Ukraine from a demographic point of view.

Indeed, the EU Member States are experiencing a sharp decline in the number of citizens of working age. This segment of the population decreased by 3.5 million from 2015 to 2020 and is expected to drop by a further 35 million between now and 2050. There are 82 regions, from 16 Member States, severely affected by this decrease, but also by the low percentage of graduates.

Many of these regions are already stuck in a "talent trap", having specific structural deficiencies such as inefficient labour market and education, training and adult learning systems, poor performance in the areas of innovation, public governance or business development and limited access to services.

To prevent this phenomenon from transforming Europe's demographic landscapes, hampering the EU's resilience and competitiveness, the European Commission launched the Talent Incentive Mechanism.

Brain drain: EU launches the talent incentive mechanism

In detail, the new European instrument consists of eight strategic pillars.

The first pillar is the launch later this year of a new pilot project to help regions - selected through an ad hoc call for proposals - that are victims of the "talent trap". On the one hand, this initiative will serve to draw up, consolidate, develop and implement plans tailored to local needs; on the other hand, it will be useful for identifying projects to train, attract and retain skilled workers.

Also in 2023, the intelligent adaptation of regions to demographic transition will be developed. As in the previous strand, regions with high rates of youth emigration will be selected by public notice and will receive support to develop targeted policies on the territory to invest in talent development.

Among the measures to be considered is the technical support facility (SST). This programme, upon application under the 2023 call for proposals, will provide EU Member States with tailor-made technical expertise to design and implement the reforms needed to tackle the shrinking working-age population and the education gap in the labour force.

The fourth pillar is cohesion policy programmes and interregional innovation investments, which will stimulate opportunities for high-skilled jobs, helping to improve the chances of retaining and attracting talent in the regions.

A new call will be launched under the European Urban Initiative: the strategy to support urban areas of all sizes with innovative actions, capacity and knowledge building, and policy development and communication on sustainable urban development. Consistent with the objectives of the European Urban Initiative (EUI), the call will aim to test place-based solutions adopted by cities in decline that are committed to developing, retaining and attracting skilled workers.

Finally, the EU mechanism also includes the following lines of action:

  • EU initiatives to support talent development will be highlighted on a dedicated website, allowing regions easier access to information on EU policies in areas such as research and innovation, training, education and youth mobility;
  • experiences will be exchanged and best practices disseminated: regions will have the opportunity to set up thematic and regional working groups to address specific professional or territorial challenges;
  • analytical skills needed to support and facilitate evidence-based policies on regional development and migration will be further developed.

European funds and EU initiatives already in place

Pending the grounding of the eight strategic axes of the EU talent incentive mechanism, a range of EU instruments and policies are already in place to support economic recovery and the development of appropriate skills to attract high-potential activities in less resilient and competitive regions.

One example is the new European Innovation Agenda, which launched the Deep Tech Talent Initiative: a specific flagship initiative to address the talent gap in high-tech sectors, integrating all regions of Europe.

There are also several national and regional initiatives that effectively address structural challenges in a local context, increasing regional attractiveness for talent.

Finally, cohesion policy itself contributes to helping regions in difficulty diversify their economies, improve accessibility to services, implement efficiency in public administration and ensure the involvement of regional and local authorities through specific area-based strategies.