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Making progress towards the completion of the Single European Labour Market

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Boosting labour mobility within the EU is a useful instrument to mitigate the effects of the crisis and to provide the economic growth needed to emerge from it. But a number of obstacles still remain, and EU policy can play a role in removing these barriers and optimising the benefits of labour mobility, heard participants in the final conference of the EPC project on completing the Single European Labour Market.

In his keynote speech, László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, indicated that the European Commission is a strong supporter of greater labour mobility, and the notion of a genuine Single European Labour Market is one of the cornerstones of the 2012 Employment Package, which set out a medium-term agenda for how the EU and individual member states should support a job-rich recovery from the crisis.

Claire Dhéret and Alex Lazarowicz of the European Policy Centre, presented the final report of the Single European Labour Market Project. “We think there should be a comprehensive approach to labour mobility in Europe, which was why the project had addressed the issue of third-country nationals as well as EU citizens” said Dhéret. But she stressed that although labour mobility can help to mitigate the effects of the crisis on the populations of certain countries or regions, it cannot be the solution to the crisis.

Only 3.1% of working-age EU citizens (15-64) were living in a member state other than their own in 2012, indicating that over time, mobility is a limited phenomenon, the report found. Lazarowicz said that the mobility of third-country nationals seems to vary according to status. Therefore, while the mobility of the EU’s workforce is limited in terms of size, most third country nationals face significant legal limitations, which is not the case of EU citizens, indicated Lazarowicz.

In addition, the EPC analysts highlighted that intra-EU mobility is mainly driven by economic and job related reasons and that is represents a significant asset whose potential is still under-utilised.

Finally, the EPC analysts concluded by presenting some policy recommendations of the final report, including:

  • Make more effective use of existing tools, such as EURES.
  • Invest in empowering individuals to move between EU member states, for example by offering personalised career guidance or creating a one-stop shop to better facilitate registration procedures.
  • Invest in the mobility propensity of targeted groups at an early stage, for example via different mobility schemes. “Once individuals have experienced mobility, they’re more likely to move in later life,” Dhéret argued.
  • Develop a stronger role for the European Union in fighting for equal treatment.
  • Develop a stronger role for the European Union in making the EU more attractive to foreign talent by creating the optimal conditions for retaining the foreign labour force within the EU labour market.

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