Managing Mobility Matters 2006

09.11.2011

A brand new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reveals that with the exception of the Nordic countries, Ireland and the UK, mobility remains disappointingly low.

In the framework of the European Year of Workers’ Mobility 2006, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) undertook a comprehensive employer survey on the issue of workers mobility in Europe. The study is an update of the findings of the first Managing Mobility Matters report, issued in 2001.

Mobility does not live up to expectations

In 2001, the survey showed that business representatives were overall very positive about mobility. They expected at this stage an increase in mobile workers and thus an improved supply of educated, competent foreign workers filling the growing skills gaps. Five years later, this hope is far from becoming reality, even if preconditions are still favourable.

PwC presents a set of necessary steps to be taken by employers and policy makers to see these expectations fulfilled. In particular the present lack of information about opportunities needs to be overcome and potential mobile workers provided with a more positive view of the undoubted possibilities that mobility can offer them.

Mobility levels remain low

With few exceptions, the levels of mobility in the EU have remained relatively low since 2001. Furthermore, even though about a third of firms covered by the survey receive job applications from other EU countries, these amount to less than 5% of all applications. The variety of mobility types, driven by both employers and employees, is however remarkable.

PwC sees a clear need for a greater degree of information about levels of mobility for different types of workers and therefore recommends intensifying the monitoring of EU wide mobility via surveys and other applicable means. Furthermore it will be necessary to provide better tailor-made information and guidelines for all involved actors.

Economic factors become main drivers of mobility

Since 2001, the availability of staff has been replaced by changing customer needs, competitor activity and staff costs as the major business drivers. Under these new circumstances companies rather tend to make increased use of existing staff than use mobile workers or recruit in other EU Member States.

For individuals on the other hand, the desire to increase their income and enjoy better working conditions is, after the desire to discover a new environment, the second main driver of mobility. Economic factors hence dominate mobility both for businesses and individuals at the present time.

Acknowledging these facts, it becomes evident that both business and individuals must be provided with more and better information about the benefits of mobility.

Sustained barriers in many areas

Recruiting foreign staff is less difficult than in 2001, but companies are still concerned about barriers caused by varying tax systems and the lack of integrated employment legislation across the EU. Different payment levels and costs of relocation have emerged as an important barrier for firms wishing to relocate employees to a different state.

While companies believe that language skills and employment opportunities for the spouse are the two main barriers to individual mobility, individuals are more concerned about the loss of social networks and of support from family and friends. Other individual concerns are connected to housing and healthcare provisions which rank alongside having to learn a new language.

There is an obvious need to achieve better understanding for mobility barriers, address them in an appropriate way, and eventually adjust the underlying policies. Mobility support actions will also have to be adapted to differing needs in different Member States.

Higher future demand for mobility expected

Disregarding the current situation, a clear majority of employers is convinced of an increased need for mobility in the near future. This demand is however contradicted by the general view of individuals that mobility is unfavourable for both the labour market and for families.

This mismatch of expectations can be countered by the development of so called ‘local-plus’ policies for mobile workers. Employers need to address the unique country-related combinations of tax, pension, social security and healthcare issues, to minimise any undesired impact and ease the barriers to mobility.

Three-way cooperation needed

PwC emphasises on the need for cooperation between employers, the EU and other policy makers.

  • Potential sources of mobile labour and motivators/barriers for job mobility have to be better identified and understood.
  • Communication of job opportunities has to improve and mobility benefits promoted – also by raising awareness about EU job resourcing centres such as EURES.
  • Workers need to be equipped with key skills (including languages) in their host country.
  • Employers have to make use of internal and external networks to improve awareness of job opportunities.

The complete report can be downloaded from the PricewaterhouseCoopers website. For additional information please contact Andrew Smith (andrew dot x dot smith at uk dot pwc dot com).

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