Select Committee on European Union Fifteenth Report


PART 5: AVAILABILITY OF INFORMATION

BACKGROUND

157. The Committee repeatedly heard about the need for information on mobility to be made more widely available to EU citizens. The current lack of information is generally perceived as a barrier to mobility.

158. In her written evidence, Dr Rolfe explained that "it is certainly possible to reduce some remaining practical barriers through greater access to information" (p 84). Eurocadres was also clear that "access to information on employment in the different European countries must be improved" (p 33). The TUC added that a "lack of knowledge of the welfare and pension systems of Member States may also act to deter mobility" (p 86).

159. The Commission acknowledges that "there is still progress to be made to enable EU citizens and companies to have up-to-date and useful information EU-wide on job offers and applicants, and on working and living conditions in general" (p 64).

160. Those seeking work need to know about their rights and about how to access information on job vacancies, transferability of social security, pension rights etceteras. Employers require information on the comparability of qualifications (see paragraphs 77-91, above) and on job seekers in other Member States.

161. The Committee calls on the Commission and Member States to work towards improving people's knowledge about their rights and the opportunities for employment that there are across the EU. We consider it important to ensure that those who want information can access it so that citizens can make informed judgements about whether or not to move. Moreover, in order to ensure mobility is an option for all—and not only for those who currently are the most educated and informed—we consider there to be a need to tell those who are not aware of their rights about the opportunities that exist for them around Europe.

EXAMPLES OF GOOD PRACTICE

162. The TUC highlighted the need of migrant workers "to access information regarding their employment rights in appropriate languages." This is one way in which people who want to be mobile but do not have foreign language skills can be helped. The TUC mentioned "the materials produced in Polish and Russian for workers entering Britain under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme" as "an (isolated) example of good practice in this field" (p 86).

163. Furthermore, mobile workers need not only to know their rights but need to be able to enforce them; wherever they are, it is necessary for them to have "access to advice and support in an appropriate language" (p 86). Eurocadres has established "a web-based information system in five languages" that gives "basic details of the [welfare and pension] systems of Member States". The site also offers access to training programmes and legal advice.[24] The TUC considers this a good example of how the current "deficit" in support may be met. Eurocadres also produces a "mobility handbook" that is available in several different EU languages (p 31).

164. The CBI mentioned that they have an "Employee Relocation Council" that "provides employers with the opportunity to discuss good practice on relocation issues" and they have established a "European Mobility Forum" that "provides information on mobility-related issues" (p 16). However, despite these initiatives, the CBI stressed that "the European Commission also has an important role in providing information to individuals who are considering a move."

165. Any information campaign must extend to those who are not currently considering mobility, but who might consider it were they more aware of their rights and of employment opportunities. This could in part happen through the career advisory services of the Member States.

166. The key element in any policy is the provision of accurate information that will enable both employers and potentially mobile workers to match recognised skills to needs, reducing any asymmetry in information. The key to this is through the mutual recognition of skills and qualifications (see paragraphs 77-91, above) and the routine availability of employment information throughout the EU in a common format.

167. The Committee believes the Commission should play a central role in co-ordinating in the various EU languages both the dissemination of information and the availability of support to mobile workers. An improvement in the quality and availability of information will lead to better matching of supply and demand across labour markets and so benefit the economy.

SHOULD WE TARGET INFORMATION?

168. Dr Rolfe points out that "some sections of the population are likely to find mobility a more attractive or realistic prospect than others. Therefore, general campaigns, as proposed by the Communication, may be less effective than targeted information and advice". She suggests targeting information campaigns at younger people. This is for two reasons. First, they are likely to have fewer practical obstacles (i.e., "property to sell or rent out or children needing access to information"); secondly, there is "the opportunity to deliver information about living and working within Europe within careers education or in curriculum subjects, for example modern languages ad geography" (p 84). The Committee supports the idea of disseminating information on opportunities for mobility through careers education and schools' curriculum subjects.

169. Dr Rolfe says that although "various initiatives have promoted mobility of students and researchers, these have not been accessible to many young people." She adds that "those who do not participate in Higher Education are particularly likely to miss out" (p 84). If the Commission is committed to its goal of ensuring that labour markets are open and accessible to all, this imbalance needs to be addressed.

170. Dr Rolfe counsels that before drafting policy or drawing up plans for an information campaign, it is essential that research is done into people's attitudes to mobility. She explains, "further evidence is needed on young people's attitudes to living and working elsewhere in Europe before careers education and information can be tailored to include the issues of importance to this group, and to address any concerns or misapprehensions they have" (p 84). We fully agree with Dr Rolfe and call on the Commission and Member States to initiate the research that is necessary to provide such evidence.

THE TASK FORCE'S PROPOSALS

171. The High Level Task Force set up by the Commission has put forward a number of proposals designed to improve the availability of information on geographical mobility and employment opportunities.

172. Foremost amongst these is the development of the EURopean Employment Services network (EURES), "which includes a database on employment conditions and which simplifies the pooling of information on job vacancies Europe-wide" (p 33).[25]

173. Eurocadres believes "that the EURES system should be extended" so as to secure the participation and support of the social partners beyond those who already contribute in the cross-border areas (p 33, Q 155).

174. The Commission firmly believes that the reform of EURES should be the result of "stronger involvement of national employment services". The European Economic and Social Committee (op. cit., p.4) and the European Parliament Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (op. cit., p.20) both welcomed this initiative. Yet the Commission announced that in its "biannual meeting with the heads of the employment services", where it launched this idea, "the reaction was not as enthusiastic as we could have expected". The Commission said that some heads of the employment services "indicated that [geographical] mobility was not necessarily their main focus" (Q 210).

175. The Committee supports the proposal to overhaul EURES to further the integration of the systems of the national employment services. This way, Member States can decide themselves what level of importance to give to the project—a decision that we believe can only be made after they have evidence both on the relative importance of geographical mobility to the effective functioning of labour markets and on people's attitudes to living and working in another European country.

176. The TUC were concerned that "several cases have been found where Portuguese workers have been recruited to work in Britain via the EURES system, only to find that the pay and conditions do not fully match those promised before leaving Portugal" (p 85). Eurocadres agree that there is a need to introduce some monitoring of the EURES system, "in order to avoid it falling into disrepute as a result of actual pay and conditions not matching those initially offered" (p 33). The Committee believes the Commission can play a role in monitoring the EURES network.

177. The Task Force also proposes setting up a 'One-stop' European Information Site on the internet. This would provide "comprehensive, easily accessible and free information to citizens on key aspects of jobs, mobility and learning opportunities in Europe (including a jobs and learning database), individual interests and rights, and other information" (op. cit., p 21). The Committee endorses this proposal.

178. The Commission is establishing "an Internet portal on learning opportunities". In this context, the Task Force asks that Member States ensure by 2002 the availability of relevant national online databases, which can be interconnected through the portal (op. cit., pp. 15, 22). As the Committee clearly sees the benefits of occupational mobility and is keen to support learning and training, we fully support this initiative. We ask the Commission to ensure that opportunities for lifelong learning take a prominent position in the databases.

CITIZENSHIP

179. The Commission is keen to promote "inter-cultural education and education related to the respect of diversity" (Q 224). Professor Schmidt believed that "it might well be that the attitude towards Europe as a whole or the European Union is shaped very much early on in school age." He speculated "that there would be scope for improving knowledge and acceptance in European countries for the idea of being a member of a larger common Europe, and perhaps my suggestion would be that one should introduce much earlier courses and curricula about that" (Q 178). We see this as one means of educating people (of all abilities) about their rights and the employment opportunities that exist for them throughout the EU. This is possibly the most effective and comprehensive way in which information can be given to people.

180. The Government announced that, as of 2002, the National Curriculum will include a course on 'citizenship' "that will include, among a number of other issues, teaching on the European institutions". They explained that "the citizenship part of the curriculum will include elements about the European institutions […] it will be about what the Commission is, what the Parliament is, so people understand that as well as the national parliaments and the devolved parliaments there is also a European Parliament and the Commission so that they understand the basis of legislation." The Government hopes that this "will be helpful in helping young people understand the European infrastructure" (QQ 6, 8).

181. The Committee welcomes the introduction of citizenship as part of the National Curriculum. We are also glad to know that this will include teaching on the European institutions.


24   This can be accessed at www.eurocadres.org/mobilnet Back

25   This can be accessed at www.europa.eu.int/jobs/eures Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002