This Task Force report combines the most recent data from Eurostat with national sources to highlight the most significant labour mobility trends within the EU. Overall, the recent recession has not induced previously immobile workers to become more mobile, at least not in the larger member states. Mobility flows have moved away from crisis countries in response to the economic downturn but the desired increase in south-north mobility has not been observed so far. This leads the authors to conclude that successfully fostering mobility within EU15 countries requires tremendous effort. It is important that workers who are willing and able to move are not discouraged from doing so by unnecessary barriers to mobility. Improving the workings of the EURES system and its online job-matching platform; better cooperation of national employment agencies; streamlining the recognition of qualifications; and supporting language training within the EU are important contributions to labour mobility.
The authors conclude that the EU is right to defend the free movement of workers. National governments should keep in mind that their ability to tap into an attractive foreign labour supply also hinges upon the perception of how mobile workers are treated in destination countries. If the political imperative requires regulations to be changed, such as the one guiding the coordination of social security, it is essential that no new mobility barriers are put in place.
Mikkel Barslund is a CEPS Research Fellow and Matthias Busse is a CEPS Researcher.