Career in Europe: Discover jobs that facilitate work permits

  • European work permit
Published on 2023-11-10 at 10:00
If you're an expat who hopes to get a job in Europe, a new report from the European Labour Authority (EURES) will be of great help to you. It has analyzed the jobs that are the most and least in demand across all countries of the EU. The jobs requiring the most expat labor are in skilled manual trades, medicine, IT, engineering, transportation and education. Meanwhile, less expat labor is required in administration, the arts, communications and the social sciences.

EU countries need more expat labor in STEM and skilled manual trades

Countries tend to ease immigration rules for expats who have skills they are struggling to find locally. The European Labour Authority (EURES) recently published a report entitled “Report on labor shortages and surpluses,” which analyzes 2022 data concerning the fields struggling to hire or, alternately, getting too many applications across all countries of the European Union. 

Skilled manual trades are in strong demand across the continent. These are the manual jobs that suffer a severe shortage across 40-80% of all EU countries: bricklayers and construction laborers, carpenters and joiners, plumbers and pipefitters, electricians and flame cutters, electrical mechanics and fitters, electrical engineering technicians, concrete placers and finishers, sheet metal workers, motor vehicle mechanics and repairers, structural metal preparers and erectors, painters, plasterers and roofers. For instance, a high 78% of all EU countries report an acute shortage of roofers, and 62% report a severe shortage of concrete placers.

Healthcare is another area that reports many shortages across the EU, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. The healthcare professions, for which 40-75% of all EU countries report severe shortages, are general practitioners, specialist doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, psychologists, and healthcare assistants. In the broader area of STEM, civil engineers, software developers and systems analysts are also in high demand.

Meanwhile, in the hospitality sector, these jobs have an acute shortage across 25-55% of the EU: waiters, cooks, chefs, bakers, pastry cooks, butchers and fishmongers. The transport sector has a severe shortage of drivers of heavy trucks, lorries, buses and trams. In both transport and construction, there is also a strong need for earthmoving operators. Lastly, the education sector also has a shortage of early childhood educators across 43% of the EU.

It is worth highlighting that many of the jobs listed above have an aging workforce. Less than a quarter of all plumbers, electricians, cooks, early childhood educators, and healthcare assistants across the European Union are under the age of 30. Of bus drivers, only a measly 5% are in their 20s. Older workers will inevitably retire, which is why Europe needs younger expats from elsewhere around the world who can replace them.

On the other side, some professions are already filled with enough European workers and might even be experiencing a labor surplus. Most of these are professions in the social sciences, arts and administration, which require a university degree. Among them are translators and interpreters, PR and communications professionals, historians and political scientists, social workers, journalists, graphic designers, secretaries, clerks and travel guides. 

It's not impossible for expats to get the aforementioned jobs, but their task is harder. They face more competition from locals and probably need to go through more bureaucratic procedures to get a work permit. For instance, they might fail a labor market needs test that requires their prospective employer to prove to the state that there isn't enough local talent for this job. 

EU countries have eased immigration for expats who can solve their skills shortage

In the EURES publication, the European countries that reported a wider range of professions as suffering from a labor shortage are Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Norway, Slovenia, Denmark, Estonia, France and Finland. Even if this report offers information about larger-scale patterns across the EU, it's worth looking in depth into which exact shortages every specific country has. 

For instance, while expat chefs are needed in most EU countries, Denmark actually has a surplus of chefs. So, if you're a non-European chef, it might be more worthwhile to immigrate to France, Belgium, Italy or Finland rather than Denmark. There are also certain professions that aren't experiencing a general shortage across Europe but are in shortage in a handful of EU countries. This is the case for biologists in Ireland, Italy, and the Czech Republic, as well as for nutritionists in Italy.

Whenever there is a shortage, governments tend to ease immigration for expats with the required skills. The Ministry of Labor or Foreign Affairs of many countries has created an official list of professions with labor shortages. Prospective expats whose qualifications and experience match these professions might get visa fee waivers, work permits that last for longer than average permits, waivers concerning the submission of certain documents, and/or a relocation package. 

For instance, in Germany, only expats in high-skilled professions experiencing a shortage are eligible for the EU Blue Card, a 4-year work permit. Architects, engineers, scientists, urban planners, health professionals, and IT specialists are among those eligible for it. Because of strong demand, IT specialists don't even need to have a university degree to get an EU Blue Card; they just need to have three years of experience. 

In Ireland, a slightly similar Critical Skills Employment Permit was created in 2022. It is a 2-year work visa and is available to non-EU expats with professions on the Critical Skills Occupation List. This list includes health professionals, IT specialists, engineers, architects and quantity surveyors, sales executives, academics, social workers, art directors and animators. Health professionals even get a generous relocation package from the country's Health Service Executive.

To cite another example, Spain has a Highly Skilled Professional Work Permit. It is a 2-year work permit for expats who are high-level managers or technicians. Their applications are more likely to get accepted if they are managers or technicians in fields like IT, healthcare, business consultancy and marketing, because these fields have a labor shortage. Their chances also increase considerably if they graduated from a prestigious university.

The Netherlands attracts many expats, especially Middle Eastern and Indian ones, who work in IT. The country is a tech and startup hub, and this booming sector has been struggling to find enough workers. The Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics reported that in 2022, for every 133 tech vacancies in the country, there were only 100 applicants. Dutch tech companies actively recruit abroad, and once they've sponsored non-EU expats, help them obtain the Highly Skilled Migrant Visa. In recent years, the Dutch government has lowered this visa's fees and reduced its processing time to help the tech industry.

Non-EU expats tend to turn to the wealthier countries of Western and Northern Europe, but the countries of Central and Eastern Europe shouldn't be overlooked either. These regions suffer from a brain drain, so they end up with labor shortages in many fields. The Slovenian government, for instance, adopted amendments early in 2023 that have eased the recruitment of foreigners. Expats in Slovenia will now get their visas more quickly and will be more free to change employers or work multiple jobs. This country of the Balkans has an acute labor shortage in healthcare and social services, among other fields.