Select Committee on European Union Fifteenth Report


PART 3: BARRIERS TO GEOGRAPHICAL MOBILITY

Background

52. The Commission highlights a range of barriers to geographical mobility within the EU. These are all classified as economic or administrative (pensions, tax benefit systems, portability and accumulation of rights, wages); the mutual recognition of experience, qualifications and skills; language; social and cultural; or the availability of information on opportunities for those who may wish to move. The Communication identifies areas where the Commission has responsibility for removing these barriers.

53. In outlining the existing policy framework, the Commission recognises that the basic principles of freedom of movement and non-discrimination for migrant workers are already laid down in the Treaties. However, it is also acknowledged that those rights have not been sufficient to guarantee openness and accessibility for all because of burdensome administrative procedures and the problems these can create. The Commission is not concerned with changing the rights conferred in the Treaties, but rather in assessing what additional policy steps need to be taken in order to make them effective.

54. The Commission argue that the observed levels of geographical mobility in the EU "reflect various continuing barriers and difficulties" (p 39). For example, the lack of mutual recognition of experience, qualifications and skills can be a hindrance for those employers who wish to hire employees from another Member State.

ECONOMIC AND ADMINISTRATIVE BARRIERS

55. The Communication from the Commission identifies two aspects of economic barriers to free movement: the portability and accumulation of rights in pensions, tax and benefit systems and the failure of wage developments to reflect local productivity and labour market conditions.

56. The CBI were against a harmonised tax system in the EU (Q 101), and the Commission's Communication stresses that tax and benefit systems "do not need to be either integrated or harmonised to ensure effective mobility, but they do need to be compatible and well co-ordinated" (p 41). To some extent, the relevant legislation is already in place at European level to grant the basic right of free movement enshrined in the Treaties. Bilateral agreements govern tax treatment; Regulation 1408/71 aims to ensure that movers are not adversely affected by the application of different national legislations on social security; the Government drew attention to the existence of a Council Directive that safeguards the occupational pension rights of employed or self-employed workers who move within the European Union (Q 22). However, witnesses were unclear whether or not agreements to prevent double taxation existed between all the Member States of the EU (QQ 17, 159, 160).

57. Member States are understandably keen to maintain subsidiarity in these areas. Most of the problems that are resolvable at EU-level are ones of ensuring communication between different national systems and providing appropriate information to potential movers. The Government states that "a lot of the issues arise because people simply do not understand the tax system in another country and they therefore find it not very accessible". However, they also state that people "do not have a very good understanding of the tax system in their own country" (Q 15). Yet Monsieur Rousselot of Eurocadres complained that there is still a lack of information on such issues given to mobile workers. Referring to his own personal experience in Brussels, he mentioned that, even after two and a half years, he "did not receive anything about the amount of direct taxes that you have to pay" (Q 123). The Committee recognises that direct taxation is a matter for each Member State, but recommends that better information should be provided as of right to mobile workers to ensure that they receive full details of tax liabilities when moving to another Member State. We note that there is also a good case for simplifying the national tax systems.

58. Despite the existence of long-standing legislation co-ordinating social security systems—Regulation 1408/71 was adopted in 1971—there are still problems in practice. As with the mutual recognition of experience, qualifications and skills (see paragraphs 77-91 and 151-156, below), the 'portability' of social security entitlements, particularly of supplementary pensions, was identified as a barrier to geographical mobility long ago and there have been discussions on this issue for over 20 years. Yet Regulation 1408/71, although currently under review, has still not been changed.

59. Eurocadres complained that the legislation is "relatively complicated and sophisticated, so they have to be simplified, they have to be improved" (Q 117). The main problems arise with supplementary pension schemes. The Government emphasised the importance of setting up legislation "to protect state pension rights that are accrued in each Member State so that people do not feel that, by moving at a later stage in their career, they are giving up their accrued pension rights from the state system" (Q 51). Eurocadres said that the regulation "was too strict about the fact you can work and stay in your own system of supplementary pension during only one year". However, he explained that, in practice, the implementation was relatively more flexible than the regulation itself. But, he made clear, such a situation was unsatisfactory and the Directive had to be more clearly established than it is now (Q 151). Rights on supplementary pensions have only been included in a Directive since 1998, which M. Rousselot held was only a small step but "better than nothing". The CBI referred to the present situation as an unsatisfactory "hotchpotch" (Q 98).

60. Talking about the lack of clarity in the legislation on pensions and social security the CBI said:

61. Professor Schmidt called for both greater "transparency" of these systems and the provision of "more information" for the users of the systems (Q 182). The TUC also saw a "lack of knowledge of the welfare and pension systems of Member States" as a potential barrier (p 86).

62. As with tax, the Government were sceptical of the ability of EU citizens to "understand their own pensions" (Q 22). If this is indeed so, then there is an urgent need to simplify the national systems[10] and educate people.

63. The Commission has set up a Pension Forum (which it chairs) with representatives from each Member State, social partners, pension industries and the European Federation of Actuarial bodies. Eurocadres was keen to say that it supported the principle and work of the Forum (Q 117). The Forum will discuss the many issues about practicalities, which would probably involve the UK needing to recognise regulatory regimes of other Member States as they in turn would have to recognise those of the UK.

64. The Committee welcomes the establishment of a Pensions Forum and looks forward to seeing its recommendations.

65. This year, the Member States are going to introduce the open method of co-ordination for pensions (Doc 14098/01). While the Committee accepts that the open-method of co-ordination may allow for the exchange of good practice and experience, we have our reservations about this method as, for example, the National Action Plans drawn up by the Government will not be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny. We are also concerned that such an approach in the area of pensions may not go far enough to removing the barriers to mobility.

66. To help remedy the current complicated system, Eurocadres proposed a policy based on four principles:

  • "recognition of pension rights regardless of the time spent in a particular country or a particular undertaking;
  • guaranteed maintenance of such rights regardless of the undertaking's situation;
  • guaranteed maintenance of such rights for persons working in a number of countries in succession, without unwarranted loss of rights; and
  • recognition of the freedom of collective bargaining and its role in establishing and managing supplementary pension schemes" (p 33, Q 117).

67. The CBI confirmed that the current social security and pensions regulations also proved to be a burden for firms, especially smaller firms. The CBI was unable to give any estimates of the possible costs to businesses that a switch to providing full portability of social security and pension rights would involve, and they believed that further research was necessary. However, rather than thinking that such a move would be a substantial burden for British companies, they suggested that there could even be savings for companies setting up pan-European schemes. They referred to "a survey by Watson Wyatt, the consultancy, that estimated that the average cost saving to a multinational could be something like ?1.3 million per year" (Q 96). The CBI explained that it is essential to have "EU-level action to facilitate the setting up of those pan-European schemes" (Q 98). However, a pan-European scheme requires mutual recognition, which has tax implications. Despite various attempts to facilitate the setting up of such schemes, it has not proved possible to get agreement on the necessary Directives to implement this at a European level.

68. Whilst the provisions of social security may be complex for employed workers, they are potentially even more complicated for the self-employed and those who may have worked informally within family enterprises. These groups need to be adequately catered for in any revision of the legislation.

69. The High Level Task Force on Skills and Mobility recommends that when Regulation 1408/71 is updated, it should be extended to all statutory branches of social security and to all persons covered. Furthermore it recommends the introduction of an EU-wide social security card be seriously examined as a means of facilitating access to these rights (op. cit., p.19). The Commission confirmed that this would not "replace national cards but which could be used by people who move from one country to another" (Q 196). The Committee recognises that determining the level of social security is a matter for each Member State, but considers that the need to provide all EU citizens with equal access to jobs in any Member State does require a greater effort to provide information on rights and access to social security. The Committee recognises the existence of schemes that enable people to demonstrate entitlement to health benefits across the EU with the current E111 form and the proposed electronic health card. We see merit in a similar voluntary scheme for social security, whereby mobile workers could demonstrate easily their entitlement to social security rights in other Member States. We recommend that serious consideration be given to the proposal for an EU-wide social security card system that operates along similar lines to the proposed electronic health card. Such a scheme could simplify procedures without changing existing rights and obligations.

70. The TUC raised the difficulty that some workers have faced in understanding employment contracts when moving to another country, or of finding that the terms and conditions on arrival were not those expected when accepting the job (p 85). Eurocadres confirmed that this was a problem and suggested that a European trade union framework would help (QQ 156-58). The Commission said that it had "had complaints about treatment and about bad conditions". It explained that it hoped that these would lessen as a result of the implementation of the Working Time Directive and the Race Directive (QQ 219-22).

71. The Government explained that "contracts of employment and other terms and conditions are set within a framework of national law and more specifically by agreement between employers and employees and their representatives at a sectoral or company level. The detailed content of contracts of employment may vary quite widely within Member States and between Member States, but there is a basic amount of information which employees must receive about their terms and conditions, which is specified in the European Directive. There will be basic information that must be provided, regardless of what other details there may be in the contract. The details will vary but the information will be provided" (Q 29).

72. However, there is a general feeling that this current basic minimum is an insufficient level of information and remains a potentially large barrier dissuading people from wishing to move. The Government believe that the existence of private sector agencies, "who will sort out the problems for you", alongside the public information ensures the availability of "information about the terms of working conditions of the EU states and the sorts of things you would need to apply and the rights you would be entitled to" (Q 29). However, the need to have recourse to the private sector may act as a deterrent to those on lower incomes if such information were only available at a cost and may be a further reason why mobility is largely confined to the more skilled. The Committee recommends that basic information on such rights should be freely available to all as part of a publicly-provided service.

73. Witnesses did not provide any direct evidence on the extent to which a lack of geographical mobility is impacting on wage development or productivity in local labour markets. Professor Schmidt identified the theoretical arguments that more geographical mobility would be beneficial, but also made it clear that it is difficult to provide a clear quantitative answer because "migration is not a homogeneous phenomenon". He also made it clear that individual migrants may suffer a short-term loss in moving because "human capital in the widest sense, all the productive capacities which people have embodied is not really perfectly transferable from country to country […] part of the human capital they have is lost and they have to rebuild it" (QQ 175, 184).

74. In some cases, the current level of geographical mobility does not appear to be having a negative impact either on UK firms' ability to recruit or on their need to raise pay levels. It does not appear to be the case that workers are leaving the UK: the CBI was "not aware of companies saying, 'We can't recruit good people because they are all being attracted off to better paid jobs in Germany or France'" (Q 63). Moreover, in certain areas, the UK is able to attract the foreign workers it requires. In catering "70 per cent of catering jobs in London are performed by non-UK nationals [who are] largely EU nationals", and in agriculture "about 15,000 workers" are used through the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme. These are two sectors where heavy use is made of immigrant workers in the UK (QQ 59, 60). This appears to be a reflection both of the lower levels of unemployment in the UK, but also is used by those entering as a means of learning English as part of their overall skill training.

75. However, on the other hand, the CBI was concerned about shortages in certain key sectors in the UK. As well as the well-publicised shortage of workers in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector—"a global shortage" according to the CBI (Q 65)—there were problems in the hospitality sector "where 40 per cent of firms reported difficulties in recruiting people". Dr Rolfe reported an estimation from the Department for Education and Skills that "150,000 new recruits are required to meet new labour requirements in the expanding childcare sector by 2004" and used this as "an example of a sector which could benefit from an influx of experienced and qualified labour from outside the UK" (p 84). The Government admitted the UK is also under producing workers in other sectors: namely teaching, physiotherapy and nursing (QQ 46, 49). In such cases, an increase in the level of geographical mobility could help the economy. More generally, for higher-skilled workers, in technical and management roles, the relevant labour market is already a global one and firms have needed to develop a global approach to both recruitment and pay.

76. Perhaps of greater concern are the varying constraints on individuals' ability to move because of housing. This is a particular problem in the UK, but raises issues about the way in which the lack of a Europe-wide housing market, differences in methods of mortgage provision, and above all substantial differences in house prices and rents may be more important constraints than those associated with individuals' qualifications and skills. The CBI pointed out that regional differentials within the UK already imposed problems for employers wishing to transfer staff. These variances may cost companies of the order of £10,000 a year to cover the incremental cost of mortgage interest, and a total of "something of the order of a £30,000 cost to relocate a middle manager", to which tax and other contributions could add a further £16,000 (Q 75). The Task Force is also concerned about "taxes penalising people who move house" (op. cit., p 12). The Committee is concerned that a shortage of rental housing and the current imbalances in the UK housing market could be having a negative impact on the ability of UK labour markets to function efficiently. By implication, this may pose problems for the recruitment of staff from outside the UK. Any such problems could have a negative impact on the competitiveness of UK firms.

MUTUAL RECOGNITION OF QUALIFICATIONS

77. 45 years after the Treaty of Rome, today's European citizens who wish to move to another European country in order to work should be confident and assured of having the possibility of pursuing a profession in a Member State other than that in which they acquired their experience and qualifications. The CBI was quite clear that for the fundamental right of freedom of movement "to be exercised, European citizens need to be able to transfer qualifications and experience gained in one Member State to another" (p 15).

78. The Commission identified the lack of mutual recognition of qualifications as a major barrier to geographical mobility at an early stage (p 83), and they still do view the recognition of qualifications as "one of the crucial issues which affects the mobility of labour" (p 63).

79. However, this is an issue where the witnesses consistently declared that work is needed. The lack of recognition of professional, academic and vocational qualifications from another Member State is perceived as a particular disincentive to individuals becoming geographically mobile.

80. The CBI said that mutual recognition "is an area with which the European Commission has been grappling for a long period but we still do not seem to be any nearer to finding a solution" (Q 78). The mutual recognition of qualifications is not just "a key issue" but the "first priority" of Eurocadres, who are "particularly calling for progress in this area because it is the first need of people when they are moving to another country. They want the knowledge of their skills to be recognised for their new job." They point out that employers also have "to have the capacity to understand the skills and qualifications of new people coming in" (QQ 117, 130, 132).

81. Eurocadres thought "some progress" had been made with regard to the mutual recognition of academic qualifications. They felt that this was mainly due to the Bologna declaration—signed by 29 European countries in June 1999 calling for a "European higher education area"—and they were "surprised by the relatively quick process" that this had set in motion. Although this is not an EU instrument and is non-binding in nature, Eurocadres felt that the Commission should take it into account, actively support it and use it to develop a platform for further co-operation in the European Union (p 32, QQ 143-44). The Government drew attention to the fact that there is also a network of national organisations—the National Academic Recognition Centres (NARIC)—that currently provides advice and information on the equivalent value of European academic qualifications (Q 10). However, an assessment of qualifications via UK NARIC results in a letter of comparability, what the Government call "an informal equivalence" (Q 10), for which there is a standard charge of £25. The process of applying to a separate body can also take a long time. The price and the delay may not constitute a substantial barrier, but they do make it more difficult to recruit someone from another Member State; and this will be a disincentive for some employers and individuals. In principle, such a service should be free, in order to secure an equal opportunity for all. So while there is assistance out there, it is not officially formalised under the Commission, as the CBI was keen to see (p 15). There is no one simple framework for individuals and employers to use easily, quickly and without cost. From the CBI's point of view, the Commission have been "grappling" with the issue of mutual recognition for tertiary qualifications "for a good many years and we still do not seem to be seeing many results" (Q 90).

82. Employers remain unfamiliar with foreign qualifications (Dr Rolfe, p 83). There is clear evidence from the CBI that employers in the UK face problems when recruiting as they cannot "relate the different national qualifications to a UK standard" (Q 78). They want themselves to be able to understand and interpret what the different national qualifications mean.

83. The CBI is nonetheless "supportive" of the Commission's decision to move away from trying to harmonise the system towards a system of trust in the different Member States and their systems of qualifications. It does not wish "to see any kind of standardisation" (QQ 82, 88). Furthermore the Government say that "the curriculum and the organisation of education systems is one of the areas where all Member States are very, very determined that this should not be an area for European competence" (Q 7).

84. As employers, the CBI would like to see a transparent system whereby they are able to "read across each particular EU country and say, 'What does that relate to in terms of either a degree or in terms of a professional qualification?'" Such a system requires trust; it is necessary to have confidence in the value of all the different national qualifications. The CBI says that "that is really where the Commission can help because you need to know that whatever the qualification is it has been appropriately tested". Employers will then be assured that people have the competencies that they say they have. They see the Commission's role as one of ensuring that across the Union "there is understanding and appreciation and ability to interpret different levels of qualification" (QQ 79, 83, 88). The Commission agree with this and are working towards a proposal to ensure "better recognition of qualifications and better comparability of qualifications" (QQ 203, 216)

85. However, witnesses pointed out that the work on mutual recognition should not focus primarily on academic qualifications, but should include comparisons of basic skills, professional experience and vocational qualifications, as well as skills picked up through lifelong learning (Q 133). The Commission recognises this need because, as they themselves acknowledge, those who are the most academic and the most skilled are already often the most mobile (Q 213). As Dr Rolfe summarised it, "opportunities should not be restricted to those with higher level skills, particularly in view of shortages of labour in sectors such as nursing, teaching and childcare" (p 84). Therefore, the Committee considers that tertiary-level qualifications are not the most important group of qualifications on which it is necessary to focus the drive towards mutual recognition.

86. There are a number of existing Directives concerning the recognition of qualifications for regulated professions.[11] Indeed, Eurocadres declare that "during the last two decades, the main problems of regulated professions have more or less been solved". Yet, they nonetheless "insist on the need to organise [these directives] in a coherent framework" that will "simplify the situation" (p 32, QQ 130, 132). In some cases, what may be needed is to enforce more rigorously existing Community law on mutual recognition by speedier referral to the European Court of Justice of breaches of such law by the public authorities in Member States. However, there is obviously a need for a simplified text to bring this collection of Directives together. The Committee therefore approves of the actions that have already been taken and welcomes the Commission's intention to propose a simplified, more uniform, transparent and flexible regime of recognition for vocational qualifications in the regulated professions.

87. However, given that it is important to ensure equality of opportunity for all, the Committee is disappointed that "up till now the European Commission has mainly been concerned with the regulated professions" (Eurocadres, p 32). The area in which it has achieved "the most tangible results" (CBI, p 15) is that of the mutual recognition of professional vocational qualifications, i.e., those in the higher end of the labour market. However, as Eurocadres highlighted, "a relatively small proportion of professions are regulated" and regulations do not exist in the case of "the newer professions, such as the ICT sector" (p 32). Initiatives should be encouraged concerning the mutual recognition of qualifications in non-regulated professional and other vocational skills, in order to ensure the removal of barriers for all.

88. Eurocadres insist that barriers to geographical mobility "do not arise only from national regulations, but also from the lack of regulations" and that the "problem [of mutual recognition] remains wholly unresolved for unregulated professions (or those regarded as such)". They say that the difficulties in this area need to be "taken into account rapidly because the situation is not clear at all". The issue is complicated and "confused" because the divide between regulated professions and non-regulated professions is not a clear one "because the same professions are not regulated in all European countries" (Eurocadres p 32, QQ 130, 138).

89. In order to establish a framework for these professions, Eurocadres say that it will be necessary to involve "all the relevant stakeholders, all the relevant partners. We need to involve the professional associations, we need to involve the social partners, employers and unions, we need to involve educational authorities". They do not suggest that such a project is simple or cheap; however, they point out that "the lack of a framework is also very expensive. It is expensive for people, it is expensive for companies, but it is also expensive for the European budget". This is because the Commission funds a lot of projects through the Leonardo da Vinci and the Socrates programmes. And whilst this can result in schemes that are "very interesting and positive in one particular area or one particular aspect", as Eurocadres point out, "adding a lot of interesting things together does not always create clarity at the end, and it is a problem". They argue that redirecting funds from these piecemeal approaches to a more coherent and comprehensive scheme would be of long-term benefit, both economically and in terms of creating transparency for individuals and for employers (Q 132).

90. Moreover, Eurocadres point out that when "a person is sent by a company, in general there are not so many difficulties because they are sent for a particular purpose and a particular job by the company". However, when an individual moves alone, it is normally in circumstances that are less well prepared. Consequently, "they have to find their way in the labour market and how do they do it if there is not a framework facilitating the recognition of their qualifications?" (Q 130)

91. Mobility rates are highest amongst those with the highest level of qualification. The rate of geographical mobility is typically much lower amongst those with low-level or no recognised skills. Although quite large numbers of mobile workers are employed in jobs requiring low-level or no skills, such workers frequently have higher levels of basic skills. The Committee is concerned that the benefits of mobility to the individual should be available to all groups in society. The European Economic and Social Committee is "particularly concerned with the situation of under-privileged groups within society". It notes that "many of these, given an adequate opportunity, could make a valuable contribution to European Labour Markets, Indeed social cohesion demands that special efforts are made in this direction" (op. cit., p. 6). The Commission should attach priority to initiating a process that develops a framework for the mutual recognition of all academic, professional and vocational qualifications.

SOCIAL AND CULTURAL BARRIERS

BACKGROUND

92. The Commission drew attention to the fact that, as well as the economic or administrative barriers and the problems around the mutual recognition of qualifications, "there are also psychological and cultural barriers [to geographical mobility, such as], difficulties creating a new circle of friends, difficulties in the schooling of children" (Q 212). Indeed, witnesses often saw cultural issues, especially the problem of language, as the most important or significant barriers to geographical mobility. The Committee is also concerned that work needs to be done to study the effects of other cultural barriers such as the fear of racial prejudice or isolation upon arrival and the availability of redress, as well as studying the effects of migration on both sending and receiving communities.

93. Eurocadres referred to a survey carried out by one of their unions "with five European countries" of "six or seven years ago". In this survey, language "was mentioned as the first impediment to move to another country" (QQ 125, 148).

94. The CBI thinks that "language and culture are more important […] than pay" in people's decision whether or not to move (Q 105). The Government drew the same conclusion for their observation that so far geographical mobility "has tended to be concentrated in areas where there were similar cultures." (Q 20). However, whilst the Committee agrees that such suppositions are likely, until significant Europe-wide research is done on the factors that influence people's decisions on mobility (see paragraphs 42-51, above), it is impossible to say with certainty the extent to which individual factors impinge on people's decisions. Nonetheless, the Committee agrees that a lack of language skills represents a significant barrier for those considering geographical mobility.

95. The Government also believe people's attachment to a social community and the existence of family ties comprise "one of the biggest barriers [to geographical mobility] both between Member States and indeed within regions in Member States and indeed within quite small towns, cities, communities in Member States." Yet despite the Government following convention and categorising these bonds as a 'barrier', the Committee was pleased to hear them add that "it is in fact that sense of community that makes communities so valuable, and one would not want to discourage it" (Q 2).

LANGUAGE

96. Witnesses were questioned in detail over the extent to which a lack of language skills is a barrier to geographical mobility for both potential migrants and potential employers. There is a general consensus that more language ability would be a 'good thing', but hard evidence on the costs to individuals or employers has been more difficult to ascertain.

97. The Committee noted the fact that higher levels of both daily and permanent geographical mobility exist between a non-EU member (Switzerland) and its neighbouring countries where there are common languages than between EU countries (or even between distinct linguistic areas within Switzerland where English is often used as the more accepted common language).[12]

98. In its oral evidence, the Commission describes the lack of language skills as "a key problem" in encouraging geographical mobility. The Task Force's Report reiterated this point, describing the lack of language skills in the EU as "a further constraint on the already low tendency to move" (op. cit., p 14). The Commission views the ability to speak a foreign language as "one of the important skills for adaptability", because it considers that "as soon as people can master languages cultural integration is much easier" (QQ 215, 217, 224).

99. Eurocadres acknowledged that "there is a need" for more to be done in the teaching of foreign languages, but offered no suggestions for policy (Q 148).

100. The CBI agreed that for individuals "a lack of language skills is a key barrier to [geographical] mobility" (p 15). However, the CBI also said that companies can "play a role in this area by providing mobile employees with language training" Indeed, the CBI went on to say that a lack of language skills "is not an issue" that they "have problems with in terms of either attracting people to work in the UK or moving people out of the UK […] if we are moving people within the EU and they need another language, we will give them the training that they need" (Q 94). The CBI did concede though that, for those individuals without the access to such training, a lack of foreign language skills could be a problem. They added this would probably affect the UK more than other Member States (Q 107).

101. The Government acknowledge that "the teaching of languages [in this country] is not as good as it should be". They did though point to the increasing use of English as a common language on the Internet and within trade and commerce (for the more highly-skilled workers) as mitigating against the effects of this problem (Q 9).

DOES THE ABILITY TO SPEAK A FOREIGN LANGUAGE MAKE PEOPLE WANT TO MOVE?

102. One of the underlying premises of the belief that a lack of language skills is a barrier to geographical mobility is that those who learn foreign languages are "much more mobile in their minds". There is a belief, expressed by the Commission, that language is "a key to mobility in mind as well as in practice" (QQ 203, 205, 218). However, the evidence from Professor Schmidt questioned whether those with foreign language skills are keener to be geographically mobile.

103. His research showed the "seemingly counter-intuitive result" that those who speak a foreign language have "a statistically higher probability to believe that there will be administrative difficulties" involved in working aboard (pp 47-48, Q 180).

104. His evidence also suggested that experience of mobility often leads to an increased perception of the difficulties involved in making a move to another country. Although cautious about causal interpretations of the data he had gathered, Professor Schmidt did say:

105. Professor Schmidt's research shows that accurate information on mobility, and what it entails, needs greater dissemination. It also suggests that an ability in a foreign language does not automatically make you 'more mobile in the mind'. Until more structural analysis research that can be interpreted causally has been done on the reasons people chose to move, it remains unclear how knowledge of a foreign language affects people's decisions on mobility. Yet the Committee agrees with the other evidence and sees it as an objective fact that an ability to speak a foreign language makes it easier to move to another country.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT POLICY FOR LANGUAGE SKILLS?

106. Despite education being the competence of Member States, the Task Force took a very strong stance on the issue of foreign languages. Its report states that "Member States should provide for the early acquisition of language skills in pre-primary and primary schools" and "should be encouraged to introduce the teaching of the first foreign language to all pupils from age 8 at the latest". The Task Force also wants to see "the strengthening of these language skills in secondary schools" and calls on Member States to ensure that all pupils "have the opportunity to master at least two EU languages in addition to their own by the end of their compulsory education (at between 16-18 years of age)" (op. cit., p 3). The Task Force report concludes that "all school will be expected to develop the requisite language teaching capacity by 2005."

107. We agree with the Task Force that the teaching of the first foreign language to all pupils should start from age 8 at the latest. The Committee also agrees with the Task Force in believing these language skills should be strengthened in secondary schools. We consider that it should be a statutory requirement for all pupils to continue studying a foreign language until the age of 16.

108. The Committee is concerned with key elements of the Government's proposals on the teaching of modern languages in the education green paper.[13] Whilst welcoming moves to encourage pupils at primary school learn a foreign language, the Committee considers that the proposed "statutory entitlement of access" does not go far enough to ensuring that all pupils learn a foreign language from age 8, at the latest. Furthermore, the Government have not explained how much language teaching primary children would be entitled to under their plans. The Sub-Committee favours placing foreign languages on the National Curriculum at key stage two as soon as possible. It is disappointing that even the proposed right to access will not be in place until 2012. The Committee also believes that allowing pupils to stop learning a foreign language at age 14 in order to accommodate those who wish to pursue 'vocational subjects' ignores the vocational value of speaking a foreign language and inconsistent with the promotion of foreign languages as a basic skill.[14]

109. If the UK Government, in accordance with the conclusions of the Lisbon European Council of spring 2000, consider the ability to speak a foreign language both to be a 'basic skill' and to be important for geographical mobility, then increased provision must be made for the teaching of foreign languages in primary and secondary schools.

110. Although the CBI claimed companies had no problems providing training in a foreign language to those workers they wish to be mobile, we think that any policy on the teaching of foreign languages should consider small businesses that want their workers to be geographically mobile and individuals (including the self-employed) who wish to move and work abroad but cannot afford the necessary training. If the ability to speak a foreign language is to be considered a 'basic skill', then provision for the teaching of foreign languages also has to be made a part of any scheme for lifelong learning.

111. The Committee, like the Commission (Q 205), appreciates the fact that to have the requisite language teaching capacity will involve the training of extra teachers and calls on the Government to make available the necessary funds.

112. The Task Force report goes beyond recommending an improvement in the teaching of foreign languages in schools. It further says that the "appointment of Member State civil servants should be conditional on their knowledge of at least another EU language in addition to their own" (op. cit., p.20). Moreover, when speaking to the Commission, there was no suggestion that this requirement only apply to those high-level civil servants who travel and negotiate around the EU. Indeed, the Commission was keen that it should extend to all those civil servants who have contact with the public. They gave the examples of police on the street and those "people who are in the administrative elements of social security who are seeing people coming from other Member States and are not able to communicate" (Q 217).

113. Professor Schmidt was sceptical of such targets and thought they were too vague. How will the Commission define "a knowledge of a foreign language"? Professor Schmidt wanted to see Member States "measure language skills on a much finer scale" and suggested that, to be workable, such targets would need to be based on "something like an objective measure of language skills", perhaps a reading test (Q 182).

114. Whilst acknowledging that the Task Force's suggested policy on the recruitment of Civil Servants might set a good example, the Committee is not convinced that this policy is either realistic or feasible. Moreover, if the primary purpose of such a policy is to send out a message, then this might best be achieved by requiring all Ministers to master another EU language in addition to their own. However, we think that the UK must prioritise its efforts by focusing funding on lowering the age at which it is compulsory to study a foreign language and maintaining the requirement for all pupils to study foreign languages until age 16.

WORKING-COUPLES

115. The Committee heard evidence that geographical mobility is particularly difficult for dual-career couples, that is, when both partners have a long-term career path. Eurocadres said such situations need "particular attention" (p 31), and the CBI said it is an issue that is growing in importance. The CBI mentioned a survey that looked at the reasons for people refusing relocation within a company. Of the people who refused, "around 80 per cent were saying domestic reasons and about 60 per cent of those were dual-career reasons" (Q 85).

116. The Committee also received evidence on the problem of integrating 'following partners' (that is, those spouses who work, but in a less-established career path) into labour markets.

117. The CBI responded by saying that many companies have started to address these issues "by offering career assistance to relocating spouses such as career advice, job search facilities and helping writing CVs" (p 16).

118. Eurocadres said that it is particularly difficult for small and medium-sized companies to be able to help in the relocation of couples "because they have not reached the capacity for it, but we know that there are also big companies that have the capacity to facilitate and they should do it in order to facilitate for the partners the possibility […] to find a job or to look for a job" (Q 128).

119. We consider it important for those employers who wish to relocate workers whose partners are also in employment to offer assistance to the partners in finding a job. Furthermore, in order to assist working couples who may wish to instigate a move themselves (including the self-employed), information on job opportunities abroad should be freely available to all (see Part 5, below).

CHILDREN'S EDUCATION

120. Witnesses mentioned that children can be perceived as a constraint on mobility, as people may be concerned about the effects of moving children between educational systems. The CBI confirmed that children's education "is another key factor" for people when considering geographical mobility "given the differences in education systems across Europe (p 16). Greater co-operation between educational systems may help to alleviate this problem.

121. The CBI explained that families are "increasingly concerned about their children's education. Families do not necessarily want to move at that critical point in their children's education and disrupt that education" (Q 74). The CBI also drew attention to the fact that "starting ages also vary, with children in the UK beginning their education at the age of four, yet in many European countries schooling does not start until the age of six" (p 16).

122. The CBI held that businesses are conscious of the implications of geographical mobility on children's education and that no company would want to "jeopardise the children's education prospects". Mr Ginn, of the CBI, said "I do find companies bend over backwards in that respect, for the sake of the children" (Q 85).

123. The Committee considers that employers who wish to move a worker with children should help the family search for suitable schooling for their children.

124. In some instances, this will mean putting in place boarding school facilities, as sometimes parents will want to keep their children in a boarding school in the UK rather than take them with them. If this is the case, the Committee fully supports the CBI's suggestion that companies should enable the family to meet together "at least every major holiday" and that when the company returns the ex-pat to the home country the company "should continue to pay for the balance of that course", so as not to "upset the important academic qualifications which that child could get" (QQ 85-86).

125. In other instances, as the CBI pointed out, the family "may want their children to attend a local school [in the country to which they are moving] and acquire various language skills. They can actually see that as a very strong benefit of relocation" (Q 87). In such cases, the company must help the family identify a suitable school in the other Member State.

126. The Committee believes employers must respond to the individual needs of the family by looking at the particular requirements of the child and providing assistance accordingly.

127. One proposal that would enable children to switch schools more easily between Member States is the widespread use of the International Baccalaureate. This would mean that wherever workers were posted within the EU, their children would be able to continue on the system in which they were being educated. The CBI said it supports the International Baccalaureate as it is "suitable for children of any nationality and can be joined at any age." Moreover, it stated that "many employees find the International Baccalaureate helpful because it is broad enough and deep enough to be able to go to universities in most European countries once you have done it" (p 16, Q 87). The Committee would support a more widespread use of the International Baccalaureate.


10   Indeed, the Government identified the portability of pensions as a barrier to mobility even within the UK (Q 22). Back

11   A regulated profession is one (such as nursing or architecture) where the education and training for that profession is directly geared to the practice of that profession and is determined by the laws, regulations or administrative provisions of a Member State or is monitored or approved by an authority designated for that purpose. Back

12   N.Gigon, "The linguistic barrier:opportunity or obstacle to regional development?" paper to 37th European Congress, Regional Science association, Rome, August 1997, quoted in R. Vickerman, "But they all speak English, don't they? An analysis of investment and regional development with particular reference to the Franco-British border", in Soft Factors in Spatial Dynamics, ed. by W Rothengatter and J Kowalski (Karlruher Beiträge zur wirtshaftspolitischen Forschung Band 7, Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2000), pp.49-63. Back

13   14-19: Extending opportunities, raising standards, especially chapter 3. Back

14   The Committee notes that similar criticisms of the Government's proposals for the teaching of foreign languages have been made by the Nuffield Languages Inquiry. Back


 
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