Employment barriers in border regions
Cross-border labour mobility has risen over time, but cross-border commuters remain a very small proportion (around 0.9 %) of the total European labour force. The highest rates of cross-border movement tend to be clustered around the middle of Europe, with border regions running from northern France, the Benelux countries, Germany and Switzerland, as well as borders in Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia and Croatia.
Key drivers for cross-border movement include complementary socioeconomic conditions, wherein good wage differentials and employment opportunities that match the skills of prospective workers are available across the border. Additional factors include the practical aspects of cross-border movement, including practical transport links and affordable housing options.
Research shows a broad consensus on a series of barriers to cross-border workers. These are diverse and interrelated and include a lack of information on job vacancies; non-transferability of qualifications; language and socio-cultural differences; and differences in social security, pension and taxation systems between country of work and country of residence. A lack of trust between different sides of the border and a lack of willingness of public authorities to work together have also been cited as barriers.
Although no definitive hierarchy of barriers has been identified by looking across available literature on the subject, the pervasive nature of language points to it as a particularly relevant barrier, given its impact in intensifying most other types of obstacle. At EU level legal, political and operational initiatives have been launched to facilitate free movement of workers including cross-border mobility, with EURES launched in 1993 and the Erasmus Plus Programme recently celebrating its 30-year anniversary.
Additional initiatives include for example, YOUR EUROPE, the Europeans Qualifications Framework, the Bologna Process and the Trans-European Network for Transport, all contributing to the facilitation of cross-border movement.