Last updated: 04.01.23

'Mind The Gap' : These countries are facing the greatest skills shortages

The skills gap. A workplace issue that is fast becoming a global crisis.

All around the world, companies are struggling to find the right people to fill particular job roles. But it’s not a case of making workers aware of the vacancy; it’s a result of an imbalance in skills.

In fact, research reveals that HR leaders admit that 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done, with HR departments finding it increasingly difficult to source and develop talent with the most in-demand skills.

As many as 87% of companies claim they currently have skill gaps or will have them within the next two years, according to a recent report by McKinsey

The report also showed that more than half (53%) of businesses believe that the best way to combat this is to ‘build these skills’. 

Building skills by reskilling existing employees, essentially. Teaching those already in the job roles or those within the business the skills needed in order to do the work proficiently and effectively.

This is something that we know a lot about at Virtual College, which is why we are committed to creating useful and informational courses to support employees in developing their skills.

This is also why we decided to find out which countries have the biggest skills shortages and surpluses around the world, whilst also finding out which specific skills need focusing on in each country.

Which countries are lacking specific skills?

Of course, there are hundreds and hundreds of different skills that people can develop, with some being more important for certain industries than others. 

So, that being said, we obviously couldn’t look at every single skill possessed by people all over the world. Instead, we’ve taken a selection of both ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills and found out which countries are lacking in these and which ones have a surplus.

Read on below to see the results.

Please note that positive values indicate skill shortage while negative values point to skill surplus. 

Active Listening

Active listening is a skill that can help in understanding the perspective, opinions and feelings of others. This is not only helpful in resolving conflicts in the workplace but can also help to foster a culture of respect. 

Below are the countries that have the biggest surplus and shortage of the ‘active listening’ skill.

Building and Construction

The construction sector is one of the largest in the UK economy, employing over 9% of the workforce, which equates to 3.1 million people according to the Government. But the UK isn’t alone, as the construction industry also plays a huge role in other countries too. 

So, which countries have the biggest surplus and shortage of these skills? Find out below.

Interestingly, recent news sources highlight how Cyprus construction stakeholders fear the industry may be growing too fast, with developers believing that the construction will not be able to handle all the projects in the market. This is interesting in comparison to our data, which illustrates that Cyprus is the country with the biggest shortage in ‘building and construction’ skills.

ICT Safety, Networks and Servers

In an increasingly digital world, skills related to ‘ICT safety, networks and servers’ are paramount. It is a proficiency that employers are looking for more and more, as organisations working within the digital world must ensure that their businesses are protected from potentially harmful threats or malfunctions.

Below are the countries that have the biggest surplus and shortage of these skills.

Judgment and Decision Making

Being able to make sound judgments is a skill that many employers look for in candidates. This skill can help make people better professional decisions in areas such as time management, leadership, productivity and quality.

So, which countries have the biggest surplus and shortage of this skill? Find out below.

Reading Comprehension

Realistically, proficient reading comprehension is a vital skill in the workplace that almost all employees will need to do their job well. It’s crucial across practically every industry and sector, but particularly for office jobs.

Below are the countries that have the biggest surplus and shortage of reading comprehension.

What skills do specific countries have a shortage or surplus of?

Now, taking a deep dive into some specific countries, we have taken a look at which five skills are the biggest surplus of, as well as which five there is the biggest shortage of.


As a whole, Australia appears to be lacking in medical knowledge the most, as both ‘psychology, therapy and counselling’, and ‘medicine and dentistry’ are two groups of skills that the country has the most shortage of. This is supported by research from Australia’s Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety 2021, which found that 34% of residential facilities in the country’s major cities reported registered nurse shortages compared with 55% in remote and very remote areas. On the other hand, the country seems to be most proficient in production and technology knowledge, with both ‘transportation’ and ‘production and processing’ being two of the five skills that Australia has the biggest surplus of.

Similarly to Australia, Canada also seems to be very skilled when it comes to production and technology knowledge, with three of five of its surplus skills being within this category: ‘transportation’, 'production and processing’, and ‘engineering, mechanics and technology’. Again, Canada also lacks medical knowledge skills the most with both ‘psychology, therapy and counselling’, and ‘medicine and dentistry’ being two of the skills groups that the country is lacking most.

Ireland is split when it comes to production and technology knowledge, with two of its five surplus skills being within this category as well as two of its five shortage skills. When it comes to its surplus skills, the country has more than enough of both ‘transportation’ and ‘food production’ skills. When it comes to the shortage, it’s ‘engineering, mechanics and technology’, and ‘building and construction’ skills that Ireland is lacking. In fact, recent research reveals that 63% of Irish construction companies are struggling to find skilled workers.

In New Zealand, it appears that soft skills are in surplus as both ‘persuasion and negotiation’, and ‘reading comprehension’ are in the country’s top five surplus skills. The latter perhaps stems from childhood development, with a report from the New Zealand Government highlighting that 13% of students in the country were top performers in reading, compared to an OECD average of 9%. On the other hand, there seems to be a shortage of ‘physical abilities’ and ‘psychomotor abilities’, both of which involve physical skills.


In the UK, it appears scientific knowledge is lacking from the population, with ‘geography’ and ‘sociology and anthropology’ being two of the five skills with the most reported shortage.Geography could perhaps be a result of research by the British Government, which revealed that there has been a decline over the decades in the amount of time spent studying the subject as part of the curriculum, particularly in primary schools.The UK also has a shortage of ‘persuasion and negotiation’ skills, which, as a nation that is renowned for apologising, might not be such a surprise!When it comes to a surplus of skills though, it’s business skills that appear to be in abundance, with ‘customer and personal service’, and ‘clerical’ both being in excess.

In the United States, there is a strong surplus of production and technology knowledge, with ‘building and construction’, ‘engineering, mechanics and technology’, and ‘production and processing’ being three of the five skills the country is in excess of. On the other hand, the United States has a shortage of ‘business processes’ skills in particular, with both ‘customer and personal service’ and ‘sales and marketing’ being in demand. A recent report actually highlighted that sales and marketing positions are the top three hardest roles to fill in the United States.

Which countries have workers that are the most underqualified for their job requirements?

Following the earlier figure that 58% of the workforce needs new skills to get their jobs done, we have worked out the average percentage of workers in countries around the world that have a qualification or field-of-study that is underqualified for their job's requirements.


We’ve broken this down and looked further at the three countries with the most underqualified workers for their job requirements.

#1 Ireland According to the data, more than 3 out of 10 workers (30.7%) in Ireland are underqualified for the work that they are doing. This could be a result of people working in a job different from the field they specialised in, with the data highlighting that over 50% of Irish graduates in the fields of ICT, Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistics are in different roles to their field-of-study.

#2 New Zealand 28.2% of workers in New Zealand are underqualified for the work that they are doing, our data reveals. According to further research by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, people in New Zealand who had spent 30 or more years in employment were more likely to be underqualified for their jobs than people who have spent less than 10 years, thus highlighting the importance of regular upskilling. This being said, New Zealand also has a fairly high percentage of people being overqualified for the work that they are doing, at just over 13% of workers.

#3 United Kingdom According to the data, more than a quarter (26%) of workers in the United Kingdom are underqualified for the work that they are doing. Interestingly, according to research, as many as 33% of UK employees don’t feel qualified for their current job role, with 32% believing that their boss or colleagues think the same about them. Unfortunately, these fears have an impact on workers’ wellbeing, with one in four (23%) fearing, at least once a month, they may be fired from their job because of their lack of skills.


Data for this was taken from the OECD Skills for Jobs database, which aims to facilitate better adaptation to changing skill needs by making available a database of skill imbalances indicators that is comparable across countries and regularly updated.

The OECD uses data from the European Union Labour Force Survey, the Permanent Household Survey and other National Labour Force Surveys for this database.