PART 6: CONCLUSIONS|
182. The High Level Skills and Mobility Task Force
set up by the Commission based its work on three main principles:
- the freedom of movement within the European Single
Market is a fundamental objective of the European Union;
- there is a need to promote a knowledge-based
society in Europe; and
- there is a need to establish full employment
in the European Union in accordance with the objectives set at
the Lisbon European Council in the spring of 2000.
183. The Committee is a great supporter of these
three principles. We agree that the development of a knowledge-based
society is a fundamental determinant of competitiveness and growth
in a global economy, and that Member States must therefore strengthen
policies to foster skills endowment in Europe. The Committee clearly
sees the benefits of improving skills and thereby attaining higher
occupational mobility. We wholly support this objective.
184. Furthermore, the Committee appreciates that
eliminating the barriers to geographical mobility will increase
the degree of choice EU citizens have over where to work. Yet
neither the Commission nor the Government produced any evidence
of the number of people who currently want to move but are frustrated
from doing so, and thereby are not able to exercise their right
of freedom of movement. The Committee considers that securing
the right of freedom of movement through the removal of barriers
is essential. However, we see this as separate from and achievable
without a need for policies that have the aim of increasing the
aggregate level of geographical mobility.
185. There is a lack of evidence on the factors influencing
people not to move. The extent to which geographical mobility
is artificially restricted by barriers is not known. It is not
clear whether the "low" levels of mobility observed
are an expression of individuals' general reluctance to move or
of their inability to do so because of barriers. The Committee
is extremely concerned that policy is being drafted despite the
absence of significant statistical information in this area.
186. The Committee appreciates that it is important
to work towards removing inefficiencies within labour markets,
so that they are able to respond quickly to changes in demand.
Yet increasing geographical mobility is only one means of improving
the flexibility of labour markets, and improving flexibility by
other means (such as improving occupational mobility or wage flexibility)
can reduce the need for geographical mobility. Moreover, the Committee
is not convinced that increasing geographical mobility is a condition
of achieving the objective of full employment in the European
187. We strongly believe that the Commission and
Member States should invest in research in order to be able to
judge effectively to what extent geographical mobility is an important
factor in the development of European labour markets.
188. The Committee recognises that there may be many
personal benefits from geographical mobility, and considers that
the aim should be to provide a framework within which those wishing
to move could do so easily and not to increase geographical mobility
for its own sake. We believe that people's choice is best increased
not just by removing barriers to geographical mobility, but also
by creating jobs in the less-developed areas of the Union.
189. Considering that there is clear evidence that
the lack of mutual recognition of qualifications is a barrier
to individuals and employers, the Committee welcomes the Commission's
intention to propose a simplified, more uniform, transparent and
flexible regime of recognition for vocational qualifications in
the regulated professions. However, as the Committee is concerned
that the benefits of mobility to the individual should be available
to all groups in society, 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. The Committee is also in favour of the Commission
developing an overarching transparent framework for the
assessment and recognition of non-formal and informal learning.
190. The Committee agrees with the Commission that
a lack of language skills represents a significant barrier for
those considering geographical mobility. We call on the UK Government
to develop the National Curriculum so that it is in line with
the Task Force's recommendation that the teaching of the first
foreign language to all pupils start from age 8, at the latest.
We consider that it should remain a statutory requirement for
all pupils to continue studying a foreign language until the age
191. The Committee considers that ensuring all workers
have basic skills is essential in working towards the agreed goals
of the Lisbon Strategy. We are accordingly appalled that 20 per
cent of the UK workforce is functionally innumerate or illiterate.
The "up-skilling" of the workforce should now be an
urgent priority for the UK. The Committee strongly urges the UK
Government to encourage those people without the basic foundational
skills to acquire them through participation in compensatory learning.
To achieve this, we think that they should follow the Commission's
proposal and extend the right to free compulsory education (granted
in the Charter of Fundamental Rights) so that it includes free
access to the 'foundation skills' of literacy and numeracy for
all citizens, regardless of age.
192. In order to increase occupational mobility and
fill the identified skill gaps, the teaching of basic skills has
to be coupled with the provision of lifelong learning. The Committee
supports the targeting of lifelong learning and training initiatives
at third-country nationals, women and older workers.
193. Finally, 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 that mobility is an option for alland not only for
those who currently are the most educated and informedwe
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. This may best be achieved through school-level education
and career advisory services.
194. The Committee considers that the Communication
from the Commission on making labour markets more open and accessible
raises important questions to which the attention of the House
should be drawn. We therefore make this Report to the House for