Freedom of Movement of Workers in the EU: What’s in it for SMEs?
Wednesday, June 29th, 2016
The European Union is founded upon the freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and workers. Not only small and medium-sized businesses are free to sell goods and services in every Member State, but they can also benefit from the possibility to hire the best talent as workers can move around the EU freely. If employed by a company based in a different EU country, any European citizen can move to that country without needing a visa or any similar permission. This theoretically means that SMEs in the EU have access to a population of about 500 million people among which to select the most fitting talents for their needs.
Moreover European institutions have worked to streamline as much as possible the national legal requirements governing professions. This entails both the studies necessary to engage in a specific profession, the accreditations required and the formal ethical code to be kept while conducting that profession. This process has been successful to some extent, with four success cases showing that the liberalisation of certain professions in some Member States has created new jobs and improved the working life of existing employees.
However, even with the openness of the EU Single Market and the efforts to have similar professional entry requirements across EU Member States, most SMEs still have very clear difficulties to find the skilled staff they need. While most legal obstacles have been removed, many practical obstacles exist. Most prominent among them is language. Even if workers have the required skills for certain position, they might not speak the working language of the company that is hiring new members of staff with those skills.
A cross-border mobility program helping SMEs to connect with each other would use to the full extent the opportunity given to workers to move freely across borders in the EU while at the same time supporting them with practical problems, such as language and the temporary change of location. MobiliseSME is aspiring to explore in practice this idea by testing a pilot scheme for the exchange of SMEs staff across border starting with November. If you too believe this a unique economic opportunity to fully take advantage of the freedom of movement, let us know how you would see your SME participate by taking our survey.