Action plan for skills and mobility
The European labour market can only function correctly if workers are free to move between jobs, between occupations and between countries and regions. It is the Commission's responsibility to ensure that the freedom of movement of workers between Member States, as enshrined in the Treaties, is guaranteed and operates in reality. Action to promote skills development to combat skills shortages and bottlenecks, which act as a brake on the EU's economy, is an integral part of occupational mobility. The Action Plan is designed to ensure that the European labour markets are open to all and accessible for all by 2005.
Communication of 13 February 2002 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Commission's Action Plan for skills and mobility [COM(2002) 72 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Action Plan addresses the need to increase the occupational mobility (i.e. changing jobs) of workers from the poorer regions to those of the wealthier regions of the European Union. At present, only 0.1 % of the European population have established their official residence in another country in 2000, and only 1.2 % moved to another region to live in 1999. This low level of geographical mobility is particularly serious when it restricts the occupational mobility of the less advanced regions.
The Action Plan not only identifies the three basic challenges to be addressed, namely the challenge of inadequate occupational mobility, the low levels of geographical mobility and the difficulty of access to information on mobility, but also sets out priority areas for action.
Priority areas for action
The Commission plans to carry out, with full respect for the principle of subsidiarity, priority actions which will address the major challenges of occupational mobility, geographical mobility and lack of information.
To ensure substantial progress in worker mobility in Europe between now and 2005, the Commission proposes the following action priorities:
- expanding occupational mobility and skills development;
- improving information and transparency of job opportunities;
- facilitating geographical mobility.
Expanding occupational mobility and skills development involves:
- promoting access for all citizens to education and training, notably free access to the acquisition of key skills, regardless of age. Creation of European seals of quality for better ICT-based education systems;
- encouraging students, particularly girls, to study mathematics, science and technology;
- improving general education levels, and more specifically integrating into the education systems disabled youngsters, those with learning difficulties and those from immigrant communities or from ethnic minorities;
- creating a better interface between the world of education and the world of work. Creation of a network to ensure communication between bodies operating in the private sector and the educational sector;
- getting workers, particularly older workers, into in-house training programmes offered by their employers, and offering incentives both to employers and to workers in order to achieve this;
- rewarding companies and public sector organisations which introduce particularly innovative education and lifelong learning strategies;
- developing transparent ICT skills definitions based on European-wide standards and on validation and recognition schemes;
- better monitoring of the demand for ICT skills, taking account of the requirements of the world of work, and creation of detailed skills profiles;
- developing a European framework for the evaluation and recognition of non-formal and informal learning and work experience;
- pursuing the further development of instruments such as the Europass, the European CV and the European portfolio by 2003, and at the same time developing a system for accumulation of qualifications acquired in different establishments and different countries;
- making more funds available for investment in human resources.
Facilitating geographical mobility involves:
- maintaining rights to reside and work in another Member State, including workers' social security rights;
- creating an EU health insurance card. The Commission proposes introducing an electronic card to replace the existing E 111 insurance form, whereby cardholders would be entitled to health care anywhere in the European Union and to reimbursement of the costs by their own Member State;
- creating transferable supplementary pension rights;
- clarifying and simplifying recognition of qualifications for the regulated professions. The regulated professions are covered by a series of Directives. This series of Directives is soon to be replaced by a single, consolidated Directive covering all the regulated professions;
- intensifying efforts to create an internal market for the provision of cross-border services and to remove the obstacles to freedom of establishment;
- reforming the tax-benefit systems to promote regional mobility within Member States;
- introduce the teaching of foreign languages as early as possible, for example by the age of 8, so that students are competent in at least two foreign European languages by the time they finish their compulsory schooling (at age 16 or 18) ;
- encouraging students to undertake a significant proportion (e.g. one third) of their higher education in another Member State;
- creating a European system of voluntary quality standards in education and training, in order to promote mobility in the non-regulated professions;
- abolishing, in collective agreements, local, regional or national restrictions relating to qualifications;
- defining an EU-wide immigration policy. Granting third-country nationals residing in a Member State European rights comparable to those granted to EU citizens, especially as regards residence, employment and social security rights.
Improving information and transparency of job opportunities:
- creating a one-stop Internet site on European Mobility, a more comprehensive information service for the regulated professions. An EU portal devoted to learning opportunities will be set up by the end of 2002. At present, practical information covering the rights of citizens to live and work in other Member States as well as other rights and opportunities within the EU can be accessed on Europe Direct which also provides links to national, regional and local information and advice bodies;
- developing EURES (the European online jobseeking system) and developing a comparable jobs classification system, so that EURES becomes an everyday tool of the national employment services;
- launching an EU-wide mobility information campaign, as well as sectorally focused information campaigns.
The Commission will assess the implementation of the Action Plan annually, at the springtime European Summit.
Achieving the objectives established in Lisbon in March 2000 of more and better jobs, greater social cohesion and the creation of a European area of knowledge requires a skilled and adaptable labour force on more open and more accessible European labour markets. This Action Plan calls for Member States, enterprises and workers themselves to be more responsive to the new requirements of the labour market and also sets the European governments a concrete short-term objective, namely the creation of an EU health insurance card.
Following the Communication on the New European Labour Markets, which launched the debate on mobility at the Stockholm European Council of March 2001, the Commission instructed a high level task force to produce a report, which forms the basis of this Action Plan.
The Action Plan also draws on the new EU initiatives designed to create a European Area of Lifelong Learning and to contribute to the mobility of citizens (see in particular the Recommendation of the Council and the European Parliament on mobility and the associated Action Plan, to which Member States have agreed).
To achieve the objective of creating more open and more accessible labour markets in the EU by 2005, the Commission will ensure that this Action Plan is reflected in the forthcoming review of the European Employment Strategy and in any initiative to establish a European Area of Lifelong Learning.
Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 25 January 2007 - Final Report on the Implementation of the Commission's Action Plan for Skills and Mobility [COM(2007) 24 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Commission evaluates the execution of the action plan, particularly in the light of the 2004 report, some of whose actions have only just been implemented, and the new integrated economic and employment guidelines 2005-2008.
The action plan helps move towards a European labour market that is open and accessible to all in the context of:
- expanding occupational mobility and skills based on a series of benchmarks adopted by the Council in May 2003 to be achieved by 2010. A number of actions have been carried out since 2004 such as, in the field of research, the launch of the " Researchers in Europe Initiative " and the adoption of the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers in 2005 [PDF]. In addition, the recognition of qualifications and competences has been consolidated through Europass which provides a single framework for their transparency and transferability and through the ongoing compilation of a European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for non-regulated professions. In the field of information and communication technology (ICT), better understanding about the nature and structure of ICT practitioner skills should be fostered by the European ICT skills Meta-Framework which is currently being compiled. In this context, lifelong learning and continuing training should also be given support, particularly by developing comprehensive lifelong learning strategies by the end of 2006;
- facilitating geographic mobility. Progress is being made here with the adoption of the European Health Insurance Card, the co-ordination of Social Security Schemes, the recognition of professional qualifications for regulated professions, the European Quality Charter for mobility, the reduction of barriers in the field of supplementary pension schemes or residence in the EU of third-country researchers. On a more general basis, the EU has adopted immigration policy measures at Community level in order to simplify the movement and residence of European citizens and their families on EU territory (Directive 2004/38/EC). At the same time, work is continuing on managing economic migration at Community level (Green Paper in January 2005 and communication from the Commission on a policy plan on legal migration);
- Improving information and transparency of job opportunities. These should be enhanced by the "Your Europe" portal which provides information for workers, students and businesses or by the EURES portal which now gives direct access to all job vacancies published by the public employment services. In addition, Eracareers, the European Researcher's Mobility portal, offers them a personalised assistance service through Eramore which covers 200 mobility centres located in over 30 countries;
There are nonetheless a number of challenges which require an appropriate response in order to strengthen the implementation of the action plan and guarantee that Europeans are aware of the professional and geographical changes, particularly as regards their rights and opportunities. The main challenges relate to:
- lifelong learning, especially the development of coherent and comprehensive strategies open to all, as well as incentives and cost-sharing mechanisms so as to enhance the adaptability and flexibility of the workforce in accordance with the Employment Guidelines and the Community Lisbon Programme;
- ICT skills with more investment in EU core comparative and competitive advantages and attention to factual information when debating the issues at stake;
- removing the legal, administrative and cultural obstacles to mobility in order to create a genuine European labour market. The work on non regulated professions should therefore continue and new initiatives be developed in areas such as language skills or appropriate training prior to mobility which form part of the new global approach put forward in the 2006 Annual Progress Report. The latter calls for a new partnership between the Commission and the Member States in order to meet the global challenges of more and better jobs;
- a framework for economic migration to turn this into a key asset for the economic and social development of Europe and the competitiveness of EU enterprises;
- an integrated approach to mobility in line with the Community Lisbon Programme and the new Employment Guidelines (2005-2008).
Recommendation (EC) No 2006/961 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on transnational mobility within the Community for education and training purposes: European Quality Charter for Mobility [Official Journal L 394, 30.12.2006].
Communication from the Commission of 6 February 2004 to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions - Report on the Implementation of the Commission's Action Plan for Skills and Mobility [COM(2004) 66 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
Against a background of general slowdown in economic activity (in 2002, growth in GDP in the EU was around 1 %, whereas it was forecast at 0.8 % in 2003), the consequent reduction in job vacancies is likely to reduce the propensity to move between jobs and may therefore have a negative impact on overall mobility rates. In 2002, for example, a lower proportion of employees (16.4 %) had been with the same employer for less then one year in 2002 than had been the case in 2000 (17.5 %).
Nevertheless, in weighing up the positive and negative aspects so far, the report points out that occupational mobility has benefited from the adoption of a series of benchmarks by the Council to be achieved by 2010, and a Europass framework to support the transparency and transferability of qualifications. Despite the slow progress on the draft directive to streamline the recognition of qualifications, and on the draft Directive on immigration for work-related purposes, the potential for geographic mobility has been moved forward, in particular thanks to the European Health Insurance Card and improved coordination of social security rights. Information and the transparency of job opportunities have also been encouraged by positive measures such as the opening of the European Job Mobility Portal, the launch of the mobility information campaign and the modernisation of EURES.
The Commission also underlines the growing importance being attached to these issues in the current Employment Guidelines and the associated work under the Education and Training programme. The new European Employment Strategy, agreed by the Council on 22 July 2003, calls upon the Member States to improve, in particular, the recognition and transparency of qualifications and competences and the transferability of social security and pension rights, providing appropriate incentives in tax and benefit systems, and taking into account labour market aspects of immigration. It also calls for job-seekers throughout the EU to be able, by 2005, to consult all job vacancies advertised through the Member States' employment services. The Member States are further encouraged to implement lifelong learning strategies geared closely to the future objectives of the education and training systems.
Finally, the Commission identifies the areas in which action is still needed, namely:
- Developing skills in the context of lifelong education and training, in particular in the area of ICT;
- Promoting effective access for adults, whether in employment or job seekers, to further vocational training;
- Equipping young people with the basic skills relevant to the labour market and needed to participate in lifelong learning;
- Promoting initiatives helping workers to enter, remain and progress on the labour market;
- Increasing, where appropriate, the transferability of social security rights, including pensions, across the European Union.
It is, however, important to continue to overcome obstacles to occupational and geographic mobility.
Council Resolution of 3 June 2002 on skills and mobility [Official Journal C 162 of 06.07.2002].
Last updated: 28.06.2007