Labour Mobility within the EU – MEMO

European Commission


Brussels, 25 September 2014

Labour Mobility within the EU

How many mobile workers are there in the EU?

    1. In 2013, slightly over 7 million EU citizens worked and lived in an EU country other than their own. They represented 3.3% of total employment in the EU.

    2. Almost 78 % of the working-age EU citizens residing in another EU country were economically active and their employment rate reached 68%, 3.5 percentage points higher than the average among those residing in their country of citizenship.

    3. Compared to the US, intra-EU mobility appears to be modest. In the US, mobility measured by the share of persons who lived a year ago in a different state, accounted for 2.7% of the population in 2011-12, while mobility within the EU relative to the population represents roughly one tenth of that level (annual cross-border mobility rate estimated around 0.2%).

 Has mobility increased as a result of the crisis?

      1. While mobility in the EU decreased during 2010-2011 due to a decline in labour demand, it has started recovering in 2012-2013, although with marked differences between countries. In particular, countries hardest hit by the economic crisis have seen large increases in outflows of workers to other Member States, as well as to non-EU countries.

      2. Compared to the pre-crisis years (2004-2008), the number of workers moving within the EU from southern countries has increased (+38%), while the flows declined from Poland (-41%) and Romania (-33%), the two top countries of origin.

      3. Southern mobile workers have thus increased their share in the overall number of mobile workers within the EU (now 18% compared to 11% before). But most EU mobile workers (58%) still came from central and eastern Member States in 2009-2013, although down from 65% in 2004-08.

What are the advantages of mobility?

      1. Free movement of workers brings about benefits both to the workers and employers concerned.

      2. The right to work in another Member State can bring new job opportunities for individuals. It also offers other advantages, such as acquiring new types of working experience, and improving their skills, notably learning languages. All this enables them to take up more internationally oriented jobs. With the experience gained, they may also find a job more easily in their countries of origin later on.

      3. Labour mobility helps address labour shortages and skills gaps. From a macro-economic point of view, it helps address unemployment disparities between EU Member States and contributes to a more efficient allocation of human resources.

      4. In the host country, incoming workers benefit the local economy by addressing skills shortages and labour market bottlenecks. They help widen the range of services available and boost competitiveness. In the countries of origin, mobile workers alleviate the burden on public accounts (if previously unemployed) and help to revive the national economy by sending remittances.

How does the EU promote labour mobility?

      1. EU policy aims to ensure the best possible match between the needs of jobseekers and those of employers. It does not aim at promoting labour mobility only for certain categories of workers.

      2. The pan-European job search network EURES aims to facilitate mobility for those citizens willing to explore working opportunities abroad. EURES is based on cooperation between the European Commission and the Public Employment Services of the EU Member States (plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), together with other partner organisations. The network has about 1000 EURES advisers in daily contact with jobseekers and employers across Europe. The EURES portal gives information on living and working conditions in all participating countries in 26 languages, allowing access to more than 1.4 million job vacancies and 1.1 million CVs. The Commission has proposed to enhance EURES in order to provide more job offers, increase job matching and help employers, notably small and medium businesses, to fill job vacancies faster and better (IP/14/26).

      3. The European Commission also works to increase the transparency of the EU labour market and to promote better anticipation of skills needs. Tools like the European Vacancy Monitor and the EU Skill Panorama offer information on trends in occupational demand and skills requirements, allowing identifying bottlenecks and mismatches in the labour market.

      4. In order to facilitate the exchange of information among different countries, the Commission, together with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training (CEDEFOP) and a team of stakeholders and external consultants, has developed a multilingual classification of European Skills, Competences, Qualifications and Occupations (ESCO), which offers a common ‘language’ to employers, job seekers and educators.

      5. The Commission also promotes recognition of professional qualifications for regulated professions, such as doctors, architects, engineers, electricians, teachers and a host of other professions in various Member States. The Professional Qualifications Directive defines rules for the recognition procedures that apply to the different types of regulated professions. The revised Professional Qualifications Directive, which will enter into force in January 2016, will make it easier for professionals to move around the EU, while strengthening safeguards for consumers and patients.

        Is there evidence that mobile workers move to another Member State to seek benefits?

        1. No. All evidence shows that the vast majority of EU mobile workers move to where jobs are available. In fact, research has shown that they do not use welfare benefits more intensively than the host country’s nationals.

        2. Furthermore, according to a study carried out in 2013 for the Commission, economically non-active EU mobile citizens account for a very small share of beneficiaries and their budgetary impact on national welfare budgets is very low. They were less than 1% of all such beneficiaries (of EU nationality) in six countries studied (Austria, Bulgaria, Estonia, Greece, Malta and Portugal) and between 1% and 5% in five other countries (Germany, Finland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden). The expenditure in healthcare for them was also a very small share of total health spending (0.2% on average).

        3. Member States have the possibility of using safeguards resulting from EU or national legislation (as long as the latter is compatible with EU law) to prevent possible abuse to welfare systems.

          EU nationals working in an EU Member State other than their own (excluding cross-frontier workers)by nationality, in thousands and in % of total employment in their origin country (2013),EU nationals working in an EU Member State other than their own (excluding cross-frontier workers), by Member State of residence, in thousands and in % of total employment, 2013 and much more information, you can find here, or download MEMO-14-541_EN.



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