February 28, 2017
Guest blog post by Adrian Sonder, policy advisor within the German Parliament.
There is a considerable amount of economic inequality within the European Union which is reflected, among other things, in the labour market. In December 2016, the rate of unemployment in Greece (23%, October), Spain (18.4%) and Italy (12%) were significantly higher than those recorded in Germany (3,9%) and the Netherlands (5.4%).
This imbalance becomes even more apparent when examining the rate of unemployment among young people in these countries: 44.2% in Greece (October), 42.9% in Spain and 40.1% in Italy. Considering the labour market across Europe as a whole, this situation represents a paradox. While skilled workers are often in high demand in northern Europe countries, southern Europe is characterised by a surplus of young, qualified people searching for permanent employment
Lack of Mobility in the European Labour Market
So why hasn’t this supply of qualified workers balanced out the demand? My theory is that this is the result of a lack of mobility within the European labour market. The large-scale movement of workers has yet to be truly realised. In recent years, only around 3% of European workers were employed in a different EU member state.
What is preventing this movement of labour? There are a variety of reasons that apply across many EU member states:
- Lack of recognition for professional qualifications
- Insufficient knowledge of local languages
- English is still not an established workplace language in a majority of EU member states
- Bureaucratic difficulties
- Cultural obstacles
What can be done?
First and foremost, a cultural transformation needs to take place that establishes a single European labour market. In order to accomplish this, EU member states need to develop labour market policies that support employment for all EU citizens. This requires the following measures, among others:
- Improved recognition of degrees and the specification of Europe-wide standards
- Expansion of language courses in countries of origin and destination countries
- The creation of a public administrative authority for all EU citizens and the introduction of English as a second compulsory working language among administrative staff
- Better coordination in the fields of tax and labour law, as well as for privately and professionally managed pensions
- Promotion of movement across Europe through strengthened commitment on the part of embassies, cultural foundations and non-governmental organisations
If we wish to make the idea of a single European labour market a reality, we will have to enable greater movement. This could spell out a huge opportunity for many Europeans – particularly young people. At the same time, it would help make the dream of ‘one Europe’ a reality.
Adrian Sonder is a policy advisor within the German Parliament. His focus is on social and Labour market policies. He specialises in strategies to address long-term unemployment, and is interested in research focusing on the future of the Labour market. He studied economic history and political science in France, Ireland and Sweden.Blogactiv Team