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Fancy working abroad? - 22/09/2009

Job fairs pitch benefits of working abroad in the EU.

Companies doing business in the EU have long lamented the reluctance of Europeans to relocate for better jobs. Has the recession changed worker attitudes? This year’s Job Day – the EU’s annual round of job fairs to promote worker mobility – should shed some light on the question.

More than 200 European cities are hosting job days in the weeks to come. Organised with help from EURES, the Europe-wide employment service, the fairs provide a forum for talking up the benefits of working in another EU country.

An estimated 150 000 jobseekers turned out for last year’s job days, some of whom managed to get an interview on the spot. Attendance is expected to be even higher this year, given the rise in unemployment rates.

EU citizens are entitled to work in another EU country (though newcomers still face some restrictions), but relatively few take advantage of that right. Despite the vast possibilities offered by the open labour market, Europeans on the whole tend to pursue careers in just one country – usually their own.

Greater mobility by these workers could ease unemployment and spur productivity, giving the economy a badly needed boost. The EU’s recovery plan identifies a more fluid and flexible workforce as a top priority.

Some 5 million Europeans – about 2.2% of the labour force – live in an EU country other than their own, according to the most recent survey. The figure is slightly higher than a few years ago but 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 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 job markets more transparent and to protect the rights of people who move to another EU country. But there are still many legal obstacles to worker mobility, despite the integrated labour market.

Living and working in EU countries

Brussels job day

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