EURES – Labour mobility in Europe


According to a recent Manpower survey of 37,000 employers in 27 countries and territories, 41% of employers worldwide and 31% in Europe, Middle East and Africa are battling to fill positions due to a lack of suitable talent. Commonly referred to as the ‘Skills Gap’, this growing shortage, due to social and demographic changes such as falling birth rates and aging populations, will have a huge impact on many employers. Being open to workforce mobility will increasingly be essential for organisations to continue to thrive.

EU member states are in an enviable position: legislation exists that allows employees to work more freely around Europe than in any other part of the world. This enables European organisations to draw on a pool of skilled labour from other countries when and where needed to address talent shortages.

In fact, approximately 1.5% of EU citizens under the age of 25 live and work in a different EU Member State from their country of origin, and every year, 7.2% of EU citizens change their place of residence, of which 15% refer to a job change as the main reason to move.1

Migration has a major impact on the workforce, and movement of workers from Eastern to Western Europe is rapidly increasing. In many ways this is having a positive effect on the EU: a climate of circular migration is emerging where countries that send and receive employees benefit. Those that welcome migrant workers are able to fill vacant positions, and the flow of lower skilled and seasonal workers to parts of Western Europe plugs the gaps that exist there. The countries that workers travel from also experience positive effects: money sent home fuels the economies of many Eastern European countries.

There are, however, concerns with the increased levels of mobility. Employers will likely face a lack of talent due to employee migration to markets where working conditions or salaries are perceived to be better. Organisations can overcome these skills gaps effectively by enhancing their employee training programmes and by offering competitive benefit packages, thereby retaining their valuable workforce and reducing attrition levels.

From the employee perspective, changing to a new employer is often perceived as a better way of acquiring new and different skills. However, providing life-long learning and opportunities for workers to gain new skills by moving between internal positions is an effective way to not only enhance occupational mobility for workers, thereby increasing motivation and productivity, but to also overcome potential talent shortages, regardless of their cause.

So what is needed to further improve labour mobility and address our skills shortage in Europe? The challenge is to create effective systems to make skills available where and when they are needed, including across international borders. Regular and systematic labour market information will be required to track and understand the gaps and bottlenecks in training and the necessary skills employers will seek in the future.

Labour mobility aside, governments should work with the private sector through public private partnerships to ensure that the right skills are jointly created to meet tomorrow’s needs. Furthermore, universities and other training institutions should collaborate with employers to create courses that are practical and relevant for employers’ requirements.

Demographic shifts and economic factors are compounding skill shortages, which could ultimately threaten world economic growth and prosperity. Governments and employers need to counter the effects of these shortages by further embracing and adopting strategic migration procedures together with other workforce policies. Only then can we all – employers, governments and individuals – win in this changing world of work.

1 Eurobarometer survey ‘Europeans and Mobility’, February 2006

Source of Article : EURES & You : The European Job Mobility Newsletter, Issue 03 / 2007


One Response to “EURES – Labour mobility in Europe”

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