The European Commission has designated the year 2006 as ‘European Year of Workers’ Mobility’.
The purpose of the initiative is to inform EU citizens of the benefits and the costs of both
geographical mobility and job or labour market mobility; the realities of working in another country
or changing job or career; and the rights they are entitled to as migrant workers. The initiative also
aims to promote the exchange of good practice between public authorities and institutions, the
social partners and the private sector, and to promote greater study of the scale and nature of
geographical and job mobility within the Union.
According to the Commission, there is ample reason for addressing the issue of workers’ mobility
from a Europe-wide perspective: mobility levels are low when compared with those in the USA (the
usual benchmark for comparison). Although the comparison is not entirely straightforward (the
USA is one country without internal borders, while the EU is a group of 25 individual countries),
a general picture emerges of Europe having less mobility than the USA on any one of a range of
Generally, it is felt that Europe would beneft from substantially higher geographical and job
mobility among its labour force. As Vladimir ·pidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social
Affairs and Equal Opportunities, stated: ‘Europe is facing a combination of skills shortages,
bottlenecks and unemployment. “Mobile” workers – people with experience of working in different
countries or changing jobs – tend to be better at learning new skills and adapting to different
working environments. If we want to see the number of workers in the right jobs envisaged by the
EU growth and jobs strategy, we really need a more mobile workforce.’1 Although this employment
strategy applies to Europe as a whole, demographic trend scenarios indicate that some regions (e.g.
southern UK, central France, southern Germany, western Austria and central Portugal) and certain
countries in particular (e.g. Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands) are likely to face shortages of
skilled labour and would thus benefit from higher geographical and job mobility (Eurostat, 2001;
Doudeijns and Dumont, 2003).
In order to get a better view on the complex phenomenon of mobility in Europe, a Eurobarometer
survey (EB 64.1), dedicated to geographical and labour market mobility, was conducted in
September 2005. (Because of the limitations in usage of these data – the data only allow crosssectional
analyses, and not longitudinal analyses; the number of foreign-born inhabitants is underrepresented
in the survey population; and finally there is no data on job mobility within the
company – it was necessary to make a selection of the available information on geographical
mobility and job mobility in Europe.) This report sets out a descriptive analysis of the data
collected and examines four key areas of enquiry.
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