the European Commission has designated 2006 the European Year of Workers’ Mobility. The theme year aims to raise awareness and increase understanding of the benefits of both working abroad and in a new occupation.
Working in another country or in another job provides workers with skills and experience that benefit both them and their employers, the European Commission stresses. However, only around 1.5% of EU citizens have worked abroad during the past 30 years, and 40% of the working population have been with the same employer for over 10 years. Consequently, the European Commission recommends breaking down legal and administrative obstacles to workers’ mobility.
This is the point of view of the European Commission. The man or woman in the street may have a different view of the issue. In the older EU Member States workers are afraid of Polish plumbers taking over their jobs. In the new Member States women are anxious about letting their husbands work abroad while they stay home with the children. They fear that the husband might start a new family in the new country.
Easing the temporary restrictions on worker mobility from the new Member States will cause more panic. Many good doctors, chauffeurs, and construction workers will leave their workplaces and move abroad in search of better wages.
People must have the possibility to seek employment where they want. This is their right. But life is not always so easy for the “mobile worker“. I hope very much that adult education will calm the contradictory emotions and feelings that accompany these big (and positive!) changes in the work market. More language skills, more social skills, more work skills – this must be the motto of an adult educator. A well-educated worker should be able to choose between a good job in the homeland and a good job elsewhere, and get the same salary at home as abroad.
The main problem is not the exodus of workers from, for example, the Baltic countries to the Nordic countries. The problem is that these workers’ level of education is not high enough. We do not need “cheap labour”. Continued support from the EU to adult education in the Member States would be a good way of avoiding many problems.
Raivo Juurak, raivo.juurak(ät)gmail.com
Discuss the article in the Forum
Photo by Raivo Juurak