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Bold steps needed to unlock the potential of a common European labour market


08 Apr 2014


Social Europe & Jobs
A study by Bertelsmann Stiftung makes policy recommendations to foster cross-border labour mobility based on a scenario analysis for labour mobility in 2025

Brussels/Gütersloh, 8 April 2014 – Employment opportunities for citizens and economic prospects for companies can be increased by enhancing the geographic mobility of European workers. The Bertelsmann Stiftung published today a set of concrete policy recommendations based on an extensive analysis of five scenarios seeking to identify drivers and challenges for labour mobility in 2025. The “Harnessing European Labour Mobility” study is the result of a yearlong project involving a group of leading experts on European labour mobility and migration issues from across the EU.

According to the study structural mismatches on European labour markets have been growing sharply since the beginning of the economic and financial crisis. While labour supply exceeds demand by a large margin in countries hit hard by the crisis, other member states are facing labour shortages, not only in highly skilled professions but also increasingly in medium or even lower-skilled occupations. In 2007, the range between the lowest and highest unemployment rates in the EU-27 amounted to 7.6 percentage points. By 2013, this gap had soared to 22 percentage points. Looming demographic shifts will likely exacerbate imbalances on European labour markets.

However, in spite of a certain increase observed in the context of eastern enlargement after 2004, labour mobility has historically been low in Europe, in particular when compared to other regions of the world. As a detailed analysis of mobility patterns in the aftermath of the economic crisis shows this situation has not changed significantly over the last years. Only few nationals from the periphery countries hit hardest by the crisis moved to other EU countries. Increased cross-border labour mobility within the EU can therefore have important benefits both for individual citizens and the EU’s economy by stimulating growth, employment and social inclusion.

In order to foster labour mobility the authors of the study have put together a set of 16 policy recommendations of which the following five are regarded as essential:

1.    Invest in training and up-skilling of mobile workers by strengthening the mobility dimension of the European Social Fund (e.g. language courses or exchange programmes).

2.    Improve European-wide job matching by further developing EURES into a true EU-wide job portal which is attractive and accessible for employers and workers alike. Establish “one-stop-shops” for mobile workers providing comprehensive services that go beyond pure job matching and assist, for example, in registration procedures, finding proper housing or schooling for children.

3.    Simplify coordination of social security systems by closing remaining legal gaps in the area of unemployment and long-term care benefits as well as by making social security coordination more transparent and accessible for citizens.

4.    Encourage circular migration through targeted policies in sending countries to facilitate return and professional re-integration in order to avoid brain drain.

5.    Promote free movement and oppose nationalism by emphasising the benefits of mobility, improving monitoring of mobility flows as well as engaging stakeholders in a campaign for labour mobility.

CEO and Chairman of Bertelsmann Stiftung Aart De Geus said: “The high number of people without employment throughout the European Union is not only a social challenge. It also points to a large unused potential. More than 2.2 million job opportunities currently remain unfilled across the EU. More mobility on the European labour market can therefore help the EU end this huge waste of resources and tackle some of its major challenges such as sluggish growth and social exclusion.”

“Europe’s leadership needs to make bold steps in order to unlock the potential of a common European labour market. Fostering labour mobility must be a key priority of the next European Commission”, he concluded.

The “Harnessing European Labour Mobility” study that was prepared in collaboration with the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies will be presented to the public in Brussels on 8 April 2014. The presentation of the study will be followed by a high-level panel discussion with European policy-makers as well as representatives of trade unions, employers, civil society and research. Confirmed speakers are Commissioner László Andor, Daniel Gros (CEPS), Józef Niemiec (ETUC), Sverker Rudeberg (BusinessEurope) and Conny Reuter (Solidar). The event will take place from 18.30 to 20.15 at the Résidence Palace, Rue de la Loi 155, 1040 Brussels.

The study is available here:


Eric Thode, Senior Expert
Phone: +49 173 2622199


About the Bertelsmann Stiftung:

The Bertelsmann Stiftung, located in Gütersloh, Germany, is dedicated to serving the common good. It carries out projects in the areas of education, business and social affairs, health, and international relations, and strives to promote peaceful coexistence among the world's diverse cultures. Through the example of its civic engagement, it wants to encourage others to support their own communities as well. Founded in 1977 as a registered charity, the Bertelsmann Stiftung is majority shareholder of Bertelsmann SE & Co. KGaA. Structured as a private operating foundation, it is politically nonpartisan and works independently of Bertelsmann’s corporate operations.

Jürgen Noack
Communications & Outreach Manager
Brussels Office

Bertelsmann Stiftung
Résidence Palace | Rue de la Loi 155 | 1040 Brussels | Belgium
Phone: +32 2 233 38 95 | Fax: +32 2 280 32 21 | Mobile: +32 470 870 366
E-Mail: | |

Twitter: @BStBrussels


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