Why isn’t European Labor Mobility working?

The European Union as a whole is experiencing a labor crisis. Southern European economies are seeing youth unemployment rates of 56% in Spain, 57% in Greece, and over 30% in Italy and Portugal. This also works both ways. Germany with an unemployment rate of 8% is also facing a shortage of qualified workers. With this in mind, the EU is looking further to take advantage of the free movement of people and labor. One of the EU’s fundamental rights has always been the free movement to find work, yet despite the EU’s problems, European labor mobility is still far below what is needed. Why is this? And how can it be fixed?

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The reasons for this are somewhat obvious. Comparing the EU and United States, the US enjoys the same culture and language. Furthermore, it is a federal system with the overarching labor laws. The EU on the other hand, is a patchwork of national governments, all with different languages, cultures, and laws. Despite, this labor mobility has been growing in the EU. Citizens living outside their home EU countries have increased by 40% since 2001. 9.5% of the EU labor force (9.6 million Europeans) now live and work in another EU country.


The phenomenon of labor mobility in Europe is still a relatively fresh concept. The task of uprooting and moving to find a job can be daunting to anyone. Even more so considering it takes on average 16 months to find work once a job seeker as arrived to the foreign country. The EU is still struggling to increase this. Laws already exist which allow EU nationals to transfer health and social security coverage, in which job seekers are looking for work. With unemployment on the rise and unfilled vacancies for qualified employees, European mobility should continue to increase. What will be needed however, will not only be people themselves, but companies to facilitate these transfers and ease the burden of job seekers, as well as companies looking to hire. Only with individual action, government action, and private sector will this increase be possible.


Join us next time, where we’ll take a look at how labor outsourcing is facilitating this movement. In addition, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of outsourcing vs. direct hiring.

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