02. July 2021Reskilling and upskilling for the transition in Western Macedonia

This contribution focuses on the labour market in the region. It analyses workforce size and the qualifications structure, portrays active labour market policies and depicts two landmark research and innovation projects.

The current workforce in Western Macedonia amounts to circa 115,400 employees with a decline of 4,000 during the period 2008-2019. Part of this loss is now recorded as unemployed while the rest either migrated or became inactive.

Regarding the educational level of the residents of Western Macedonia, there is a significant change in the distribution of the population. The lower bound (i.e., primary to lower secondary education) declined by 50% in the last decade and at the same time, there is an increase of circa 16,200 people, who completed post-secondary education, and 9,500 people who graduated from a higher education institution – University.

This change may reflect a strong potential production capacity of the existing workforce, which must be considered in the sectoral restructuring and transition phase of the local economy towards lignite phase-out. The distribution of the workforce in the sub-sectors of employment is presented in figure 1.


Figure 1: The distribution of Western Macedonia workforce in the sub-sectors of employment;

Source: Authors’ calculations using EIEAD data, 2018


Western Macedonia has one of the lowest R&D investment and outputs in Greece. Scientific specialization is limited and focused essentially on energy technologies that is also apparent in the region’s very strong sectoral specialization on energy. With respect to the latter, the region has implemented a number of targeted projects to further strengthen its position in the energy sector.

Despite this focus, the region has not managed to create a competitive advantage and is trapped in a vicious circle where efforts towards diversification and development in the energy sector have reinforced the dominance of the public sector.

Enhancing the local labor force

Τhe Just Development Transition Plan (JDTP), in addition to national measures such as passive income support and social protection policies (early retirement, mobility), will support active labour market policies. These include:

  • the acquisition of new skills (skilling);
  • the upgrade, upskilling, and reskilling;
  • job search facilitation;
  • support for the harmonization of family and professional life;
  • the facilitation of entrepreneurship development.

Emphasis will be placed on promoting the unemployed in the labour market, but also on employees and those self-employed people whose job or activity is affected by the transition. In order to ensure the effectiveness of the above policies, all bodies public and private, who are interested in providing specialized vocational education and training services will also be supported.

Research – Innovation – Edge Technologies

Two emblematic projects that mark the productive transformation and the shift of the region towards research and innovation will be financed:

  • Innovation Zone in the Region of Western Macedonia, which has references in the World Bank study (start-up pathway) and for which a feasibility analysis is forthcoming.
  • Green Data Center and Supercomputer of Western Macedonia (GRNET), a project of the National Infrastructures for Research and Technology network, one of the largest technology companies in the country. This project will take part in the expansion of the computing infrastructure of GRNET (R&E Cloud), contribute to the expansion of advanced cloud computing services, and support the functionality recovery after a disaster.

Finally, in the Region of Western Macedonia, the creation of an Innovation Fund is envisaged for the additional financing of start-ups and innovative companies that are active or intend to operate in the region.



Dimitris Ziouzios

Regional Development Fund of Western Macedonia


Evangelos Karlopoulos

Centre for Research and Technology Hellas (CERTH)

Chemical Process & Energy Resources Institute (CPERI)


Panagiotis Fragkos

E3Modelling S.A.