Mobility of skilled staff across European Union remains low

The mobility of skilled workers across Europe is falling well short of expectations, a report out this week reveals.

Just 13% of European companies are turning to international workers to ease recruitment difficulties, down from 21% in 2001, the study by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) shows.

The 2000 Lisbon Strategy – the development plan for the European Union (EU) – set the objective of the EU becoming the most dynamic and competitive market in the world by 2010. In this world, employers would be able to plug any skills gaps at competitive costs due to the increased mobility of skilled staff.

However, with the exception of the Nordic countries, Ireland and the UK, mobility of professionals remains disappointingly low, the report said. Only one-third of the 445 employers surveyed received applications for senior management, professional and skilled manual roles from other EU countries in 2006, amounting to just 5% of all applications.

Barriers to mobility remain significant, with language difficulties, differences in tax systems, healthcare and benefits, the lack of integrated employment legislation, and patchy cross-border recognition of professional qualifications all acting as obstacles.

More practical issues, such as work and careers for spouses, the availability of housing and schools, and being cut off from family and friends, also play a part in discouraging potential candidates from taking up jobs in foreign countries.

Kevin Delany, a partner at PwC, said this was fuelling the notion that securing a job and working abroad is an extremely difficult process.

“In 2001, organisations expected people to move increasingly to countries where their skills were in high demand,” he said. “But in the absence of high levels of professional mobility, we can also expect some firms to continue moving operations to where the right people are, through outsourcing and offshoring programmes.”


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