Magazine article Workforce Management

EU Expansion Eases Mobility on Continent

Magazine article Workforce Management

EU Expansion Eases Mobility on Continent

Article excerpt

But even with the easing of labor policies overseas, Europeans are less likely to move for work than Americans are.

THANKS TO THE continuing economic integration of the European Union, the Polish plumber who became an icon of last spring's EU constitutional referendum in France does not need a visa or work permit to ply his trade in London, Dublin or Stockholm. Sometime over the next several years, he may be able to work in any of the 25 member countries.

"There's been a marked change in employee mobility in Europe," says Peter Blake, a principal at Mercer Human Resource Consulting. "It's become much easier for EU multinationals to ask people to move around within Europe."

In fact, relocations on the continent can resemble transfers within the United States. Moving an employee from Belgium to the Netherlands is similar to relocating someone from Philadelphia to Houston.

"They are becoming much more intramobile (in Europe), to the point that it's more like a domestic transfer than an international transfer," says Christopher Tice, manager of DuPont's global expatriate operations and relocation services.

Tice doesn't equate an employee moving from Brussels to Amsterdam with one who is going from Brussels to Beijing. "You can't say both of those are international assignments and we're going to treat them exactly the same," he says.

As the EU expands, people in the new member states are taking advantage of the increasingly liberated European labor market. "Central and Eastern Europe are seeing a lot of self-generated mobility to seek employment," says Ian Payne, managing director for Europe and Asia Pacific for Cendant Mobility.

Even though Europeans can move easily from country to country to work, each EU member continues to enforce its own eligibility rules for social benefits. People are beginning to move around to find jobs, but there has not been a surge of population from poorer EU states to richer ones to take advantage of welfare programs.

"It has not been the watershed cataclysm people predicted before enlargement," Payne says.

As companies begin to view the EU as one large economy, the idea of expatriate life is changing. The traditional model-leaving your home country to work in a foreign location and then return-is being replaced by one-way transfers in which employees are sent to a new country to stay. …

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