Labour mobility in the EU: Recent trends and policies

Labour mobility in the EU: Recent trends and policies

Drawing from national reports from correspondents in 28 EU Member States and Norway, this project provides an overview of mobility patterns and trends in the EU (both between and within countries) during the economic downturn and reviews recent policy initiatives and measures implemented or promoted by national, regional and local governments and social partners that directly or indirectly facilitate inter-regional and cross-border mobility of EU nationals.

In spite of EU policies facilitating free movement, European and national data suggest that the level of mobility both between and within countries is low by international comparison. Although the crisis reduced intra-EU mobility, there has been a rebound since 2011. East-West labour mobility continues to dominate south-north flows, but outflows of nationals from southern European countries have been increasing as a consequence of the economic crisis. Countries hosting highest number of EU mobile workers are Germany (1,395.600 in 2008; 1,590.100 in 2012) and the UK (1,079.900 in 2008; 1,387.300 in 2012). However, EU mobile workers in these countries account for less than 5% of the total working population in these countries.

Member States are not making major efforts to encourage mobility, even in countries where there are labour market shortages. Policy measures are relatively scarce; even the most commonly cited mobility incentive - i.e. publicly funded language courses for EU newcomers – is made available in just fourteen Member States. Active labour market policies appear to have a fairly modest impact in facilitating geographical mobility. In very few countries jobseekers are offered financial incentives to take up a job in another region (outside their catchment area) or in another country.

At European level, the EU continues to support labour mobility – for example, through the upgrade of the the European Employment Services (EURES) programme and its web-based platform. EURES is playing an increasing role in encouraging job-matching across borders and coordination between national employment services. In cooperation with EURES, special agreements were signed by the German government with Spain (as well as other member states) to attract young EU workers to Germany.  Such initiatives could be further encouraged for their potential to address divergence in labour market performance across the EU.

The report was published in October 2014. An executive summary is also available.