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.