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Skills and employment

Big data offers new way to monitor changes in the demand and supply for skills

A new study by the International Labour Organization finds that, with the right tools, data from online jobs platforms can provide important information about current and future demand and supply of skills in the labour market

News | 31 August 2022
© Gerhard Jörén / World Bank
GENEVA (ILO News) - Big data derived from vacancies and applications on online jobs listings can provide important information about changes in the skills employers require and workers offer, especially in countries where alternative sources are scarce, says a new working paper by the ILO.

Anticipating and building the skills needed for the future is essential in rapidly changing labour markets. This study, believed to be the first of its kind that looks outside Europe and North America, could help identify which skills need to be fostered to support transitions to better jobs.

Using data from the Uruguayan jobs board BuscoJobs, the authors of Using Online Vacancy and Job Applicants’ Data to Study Skills Dynamics created a skills taxonomy that aggregates three broad categories of skills – cognitive, socioemotional and manual – and fourteen commonly-observed and recognizable sub-categories related to skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, teamwork, communication or finger dexterity.

The taxonomy captures the skills needed by workers in their jobs and those related to individuals’ personal attributes. It seeks to cover both the skills employers request in vacancy ads and those that workers put in their online profiles.

A consistent taxonomy is important for the accurate tracking of changes in labour market requirements, so helping employers to fill vacancies, workers to find decent jobs, and policy makers to plan for the future. Equally important is developing the methodology that enables the taxonomy to be applied to big data, as done in the study, through natural language processing and machine-learning techniques. The method can now be applied to other countries.

“Our aim was to develop a taxonomy that is comprehensive but succinct, suitable for the labour market realities of developing and emerging economies and adapted to online vacancies and applicants’ data, and a methodology to implement it using this big data,” said Verónica Escudero, one of the authors of the report.

“The advantage of our approach is its reliance on data that is currently available in many countries across the world, thereby allowing for country-specific analysis that does not need to assume that occupational skills bundles are the same across countries. To the best of our knowledge, we are the first to explore this approach in the context of emerging economies,” said Hannah Liepmann, economist and member of the report team.