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Mobilising EU workers - 23/09/2008

Companies pitch benefits of working abroad at job fairs around Europe.

Over the next few weeks, businesses will be hitting job fairs around the EU to talk up the benefits of working in another EU country. Now in its third year, Job Days is part of an EU effort to overcome labour shortages through greater worker mobility.

More than 500 job-related events will take place between 22 September and the end of October. Apart from traditional job fairs, the EU employment service EURES is holding a joint event in Germany and Switzerland on the ferry across Lake Constance. Joint events will be organised between Austria and Hungary on the train from Szombathely to Mattersburg and between France and Italy on the Sanremo-Nice train. Last year, 150 000 jobseekers turned out during Job Days, some of whom managed to get an interview on the spot.

Many industries have a hard time filling vacancies in Europe, especially positions requiring higher skills. As a result, more and more businesses are trying to woo workers from other EU countries. But it’s not easy. Europeans are often unwilling to up and move, even for a better job paying more money.

Over 5 million Europeans – about 2.2% of the labour force – live in an EU country other than their own, according to a 2007 survey. This is slightly higher than a few years ago but still not rising as fast as for non-EU nationals, who now account for 3.8% of the EU workforce. Asked why they are reluctant to relocate, Europeans cite concerns about the impact on their family life or the difficulty of learning a new language and adapting to a new culture. They also worry about access to social services and getting their qualifications recognised abroad.

The EU has taken steps to make labour markets more transparent and to protect the rights of citizens who move to another EU country. But there are still many legal obstacles to worker mobility, the single market notwithstanding.

One measure to improve mobility is the EURES network, featuring more than 5,000 local employment offices and 750 advisers specialised in worker mobility. Jobseekers can access 1.4 million jobs at any one time via the EURES portal while employers can use the service to fill vacancies.

Take part in Job Days 2008

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