Both the professional and regional mobility of workers must be bolstered in Europe, Mr Spidla said at a press conference. The basic idea is to attract workers to regions with specific needs while simultaneously reducing the overload in regions with excess skills - and hence high unemployment. Yet Europe's mobility rate, in terms of a change of residence, is about half that in the United States - 7.2% on average per year, compared to 16.2% in the US, according to a 2002 US government study. A 2004 Eurostat report on the EU labour market reveals that the number of workers who had changed their employer over the last year rarely exceeded 10% - Denmark had the highest figure (12.9%), followed by the UK (12.6%), Finland and Latvia (both 11.5%), compared to an EU25 average of 8.2%. And in nine EU countries, 40% of workers have remained in the same job for over ten years.
"People stay in the same job for an average of 10.6 years in Europe, compared to 6.7 years in the US", Mr Spidla said, citing a 2004 figure from the Centre for European Policy Studies. In terms of cross-border cooperation, he added, about 600,000 people, or 0.4% of the entire EU15 labour force, presently work in a different country from the one in which they live. About 80% of them come from four member states (France, Germany, Belgium, Italy), and more than 75% of them converge on three countries (Switzerland (35%), Germany (20%) and Luxembourg (16%), according to a 2004 OECD study. Overall, however, there has been one significant shift in terms of European worker mobility: "Twenty years ago, most of the movement was among the less qualified seasonal workers, and now it is shifting to the higher strata of the population", Mr Spidla said, with a greater proportion of young people and skilled workers moving around Europe from the 1990s onwards.
Goodbye transition periods, hello free movement.
Mr Spidla also stressed the need to remove the transition periods imposed by all of the 'old' EU15, with the exception of Ireland, the UK and Sweden, barring most workers from the 'new' member states from seeking employment there for up to seven...