By / January 28, 2014

Youth Employment: Mobility of young workers

With almost 6 million jobless young people in the EU, policymakers are under pressure to find solutions to combat high…

© lassedesignen /
© lassedesignen /
© lassedesignen /

With almost 6 million jobless young people in the EU, policymakers are under pressure to find solutions to combat high youth unemployment. Whilst Youth Guarantees have been widely discussed and are currently being developed in many Member States, mobility – another strand of the European Commission’s (EC) Youth Employment Package – has received much less attention.

This keysource brings together published material on the various aspects of mobility of young workers, in particular how mobility can impact youth employment. In the publications analysed, mobility is often described as a way to address skills mismatch and labour demand by allowing greater access to employment opportunities. For a young worker, mobility offers the chance to gain experience in an international work environment and improve job and language skills. At the same time, it can help reduce the burden on welfare systems in the countries the jobless are leaving, whilst hosting countries can place human resources where they are needed. Germany and Spain have recently signed an agreement on enhanced cooperation in vocational education and training. Moreover, the German government runs an initiative to fill posts for which there are not enough applicants – so-called bottleneck vacancies – with skilled young workers from abroad.

Young people’s interest in mobility is clearly shown by the success of programmes such as Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs and Leonardo Da Vinci. Several studies show that young people are the group most likely to move to another country. Yet there are a number of obstacles that hinder mobility, such as problems with the recognition of vocational qualifications or language barriers. Some of these require a coordinated approach at EU level. Since 2011, the EC has put a focus on mobility with schemes such as Youth on the Move and the Youth Opportunities Initiative. Moreover, a European credit system for Vocational Education and Training was introduced. The Commission’s latest approach is an upgrade of the EURES platform, which helps around 100 000 jobseekers per year find a job abroad. This would include an enhancement of the job mobility scheme “Your First EURES Job”, which currently runs as a pilot project for 5000 young people.

For more material see also the keysources “Facilitating intra-EU labour mobility“, “NEETs: Young people not in employment, education or training“, “Youth on the Move: Getting young people into work” (before 2011).


EU measures to tackle youth unemployment. European Commission, 8 November 2013.  This memo summarises EU activities on youth unemployment. It explains how mobility can benefit young people and what the EC does to unleash the potential of mobility through EURES and Your first EURES job.

EU Employment and Social Situation: Quarterly Review highlights advantages of traineeships; latest migration trends. European Commission, Press release, 25 June 2013.
This brief update on EU labour migration explains that mobility from Southern to Northern EU countries is on the rise as an increasing number of Southern Europeans is looking for a job abroad.

EURES revamped, a modernised tool to help jobseekers in Europe. dpa insight EU, Fernando Heller, 15 May 2013. This article describes the EURES reform plans and its focus on young people. It quotes Commissioner Andor by saying that “the trend of young Europeans to migrate for work to non EU-countries cannot continue”.


Youth Unemployment in Europe:  What to Do about It? Werner Eichhorst, Holger Hinte, Ulf Rinne, IZA policy paper No. 65, July 2013, 20 p. This paper recommends the stimulation of labour mobility and temporary migration of young people through incentives rather than job-creation schemes. The authors conclude that mobility programmes, legal harmonisation and a real European labour market are needed to unleash the full potential of mobility, in which EURES should become the main source for jobseekers and trainees.

Migration strategies of crisis-stricken youth in an enlarged European Union. Martin Kahanec, European Review of Labour and Research, 2013, 17 p. This paper explores migration patterns and “push and pull” factors of young people from new EU Member States. It describes the typical labour migrant as young, male, single without children. The study finds that whilst education doesn’t affect migration, age does: the older a worker is, the longer he intends to stay abroad. Married persons are the least likely to move for work. Those with children prefer to stay either short or long-term, whilst those without children are more open for medium-term migration. Young people migrate mostly in hope of better labour market opportunities and a different political, economic and social situation in the receiving country.

Education to employment: Getting Europe’s youth into work. McKinsey, January 2014, 118 p. This McKinsey report analyses the main obstacles for young jobseekers in Europe and describes interventions needed at EU level. It takes reference to mobility on p. 97 and calls for a EU level labour market monitor and a system to make vocational qualifications transferable across the EU.

Do Study Abroad Programs Enhance the Employability of Graduates? Giorgio Di Pietro, IZA DP No. 7675, October 2013, 28 p. This study based on data from recent Italian graduates investigates the impact of international educational mobility schemes on the employability of graduates. It concludes that studying abroad has a relatively large and statistically meaningful effect on the probability of being in employment 3 years after graduation.

Stakeholder opinions

Unemployment is the scourge, not youth unemployment per se. The misguided policy preoccupation with youth. Mikkel Barslund; Daniel Gros. CEPS Policy Brief, 26 June 2013, 11 p.  This policy brief calls for more political action on labour mobility, especially for young people as they are less attached and find it easier to move. The authors ask for more initiative by the European Commission, also in respect to Your First EURES job to use the full potential of bringing jobseekers and employers together across borders.

New youth mobility policy could prevent skilled labour shortages. Christal Morehouse (Bertelsmann Stiftung), euractiv, 19 December 2013. Morehouse comments on skilled labour shortages and how new  youth mobility policies are needed to tackle them.

The Mobility Challenge for Growth and Integration in Europe. Klaus F. Zimmermann, IZA policy paper No. 69, September 2013, 20 p. Zimmermann, winner of the EIB prize for excellence in economic/social research argues that Europe needs “a common labor market that is characterized by mobility, flexibility and innovative entrepreneurship” and that policy-makers should invest in enhancing cross-border mobility as one response to high youth unemployment.

EU programmes

Erasmus+: In 2014, Erasmus+ was launched as the new EU programme for Education, Training, Youth and Sport. Mobility schemes are broadly funded in the new programme. Overall, 735.000 students including trainees and vocational students will have the chance to study or work abroad.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. DG IPOL, Briefing note, 15 p., July 2013. This briefing describes the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs programme, its financing and the roles of the different actors.

Your First EURES Job. Making it easier to move and work to recruit young people in Europe. 2012-2013, European Commission Guide, 18 p. This guide describes Your First EURES Job, the job mobility scheme targeted at young people which run as a pilot project until 2013. It looks into the objectives, the structure, the financing and the implementation of the scheme.

Related legislative procedure

Moving Youth into Employment. COM (2012) 727 final, 5 December 2012. Outlines the youth employment package which also foresees to tackle common obstacles to mobility for young jobseekers.

Youth Opportunities Initiative:  first steps taken. SWD (2012) 98 final. This is an update to the 2011 Youth Opportunities Initiative presenting measures put in place to combat high youth unemployment such as encouraging transnational learning mobility.

Youth Opportunities Initiative. COM (2011) 933 final, 20 December 2011. The Youth Opportunities Initiative is a set of measures on youth unemployment and builds on strong partnership between the EC and EU Member States. It includes the preparatory action “Your First Eures Job”.

Youth on the Move. COM (2010) 477 final, 15 September 2010. Youth on the Move is part of the Europe 2020 strategy and consists of several key actions for education and employment.

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