LONDON — Sheep shearers for Britain, judo teachers for Spain, goldsmiths for Holland. European nations are finding some surprising gaps in their job markets, and competing to woo overseas workers with in-demand skills.
Nations across the continent list shortages in hundreds of occupations. Even as some countries tighten their already strict immigration rules, many are relaxing visa restrictions to help industries import candidates for the jobs that domestic workers can't — or won't — take up.
Many Europeans refuse low-paying jobs, while failure in the past to plan properly for future labor needs has left some skilled professionals in short supply.
"Too often the cart has been put before the horse — in Britain, the government has looked at restricting immigration first, and only then at the need to train up domestic workers to do the jobs previously held by foreign workers," said Abigail Morris, employment policy adviser at the British Chamber of Commerce.
Britain has its own peculiar shortages — needing ballet dancers for the famed stage of Covent Garden's Royal Opera House and sheep shearers for the windswept slopes of Scottish farms.
But the country's government will set a new permanent immigration quota next year, promising to dramatically cut levels of migration. Business leaders warn that the cap will leave the country short in vital industries.
Vanessa Rossi, an analyst at London's Chatham House think tank, said, "We've tended to be perennially bad at planning for the future."
Members of the European Union allow citizens of most other member states free movement to live and work in their countries. But their skill shortages mean most members also loosen immigration rules to be able to attract talent from beyond Europe.
While almost all European nations need skilled medical workers and engineers — particularly for major infrastructure projects — the shortages aren't simply confined to hospitals, construction sites or dental clinics.
In Spain, the Asturias region is relaxing visa rules to hire judo and aerobics instructors, the Canary Islands needs forestry experts and the Melilla region, on the coast of north Africa, is seeking ship cooks, deck hands and waiters.
Sweden's government says it needs plumbers, chefs and crane operators. Neighboring Denmark seeks chiropractors, midwives and music teachers. While the Netherlands says unfilled jobs postings have declined in recent years, it still has shortages of carpenters, goldsmiths, pharmacists and truck drivers.