Migration and mobility

27 November 2019

The internal free movement of labour is a cornerstone of the EU policy agenda for some years, with the underlying objectives of encouraging cross-country exchanges and balancing differences related to specific national systems. Migration and mobility are important aspects of this and are necessary for addressing skills imbalances, responding to labour market demands and providing opportunities for EU citizens.

Yet, the EU, governments and the social partners face many challenges associated with internal mobility in practice, including low uptake by citizens. The Europe 2020 strategy aims to facilitate and promote intra-EU labour mobility and better match labour supply with demand, as well as to promote a forward-looking and comprehensive labour migration policy to attract talent from abroad and make better use of migrants’ skills.

At the same time, the refugee and third-country migration crisis continues to have a profound impact across the EU and beyond. Migration is one of the European Commission’s priority areas for 2015–2019. The Commission’s agenda on migration aims to reduce incentives for irregular migration, save lives and secure external borders, reach a strong common asylum policy to manage the refugee crisis, and develop a new policy on legal migration.

Eurofound’s work

Given the complexities around migration and mobility, socioeconomic research is key in order to inform policy responses. Eurofound’s extensive research on different aspects of migrants and mobile workers primarily focuses on geographical mobility. It mainly considers the labour market situation of EU citizens in terms of intra-EU mobility or internal migration, on the one hand, and migration of third-country nationals to the EU, on the other. 

Featured: Definitions used

Intra-EU mobility: The movement of EU nationals within the EU, whether within a Member State or between Member States, as mobile workers. In cases where this move is between Member States and at least semi-permanent, this constitutes internal migration. Shorter-term movement includes the phenomena of posted workers and cross-border commuters.

Migration: The movement of workers between states on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. This migration may be internal migration between Member States or third-country migration of workers from outside the EU.

Key contributions

Eurofound has looked at trends and policies in relation to labour mobility in the EU, as well as the situation of posted workers in the Member States. Other research has focused on the impact of mobility and migration of healthcare workers in central and eastern European countries.

A study on the social dimension of intra-EU mobility assessed the impact on public services. Research on migration, labour market policies and effective integration of third-country nationals looked at policy coordination between Member States and the important role of the social partners in relation to third-country migration.

More recently, Eurofound carried out a study on the regulation of labour market intermediaries and the role of the social partners in preventing trafficking of labour. A further study has been carried out on approaches to the labour market integration of refugees and asylum seekers, which expands on existing research the subject as a response to the refugee crisis.

Local integration policies for migrants

Eurofound conducted an earlier study from 2006 to 2010 with a network of over 30 European cities working together to support the social and economic integration of third-country migrants. The European network of cities for local integration policies for migrants (CLIP) encouraged the structured sharing of experiences through the medium of separate city reports and workshops that covered four research modules on housing, diversity, intercultural policies and ethnic entrepreneurship. The lessons learnt and the conclusions drawn from the results of each research module have also contributed to the national and the European debate on integration.


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