PES Group discusses best practices in circular mobility of young people

​António Costa

At the invitation of António Costa, mayor of Lisbon, the PES Group held its external meeting in the capital of Portugal, focusing on Brain-Drain/Brain-Gain: Matching EU mobility and local opportunities for youth employment. The event discussed mechanisms in European cities and regions aimed at making the labour circular mobility more efficient and virtuous.

Opening the seminar, António Costa stressed that, even if free movement of workers was one of the key elements of the EU's internal market, over the past years, intra-EU migration had been largely driven by the deterioration of the economic conditions of the countries hardest hit by the crisis. He went on to explain that this had led to labour force losses, including highly educated young people, thus damaging the growth potential and competitiveness of those countries. "Forced movement because of lack of job opportunities does not equate to free movement, this is why it is our responsibility to balance the situation, otherwise the future of a whole generation of young people is at stake", he underlined.

Referring to his own experience in a border region, PES Group President Karl-Heinz Lambertz highlighted the added value of cooperation with neighbours and of exchange of ideas in both directions. "We must make sure that intra-European mobility remains a free choice for every young European, serving his or her personal development, and that brain drain and brain gain become a win-win situation in the form of brain circulation", he emphasised.

Maria de Belém, President of the Portuguese Socialist Party, called for more public investment in the areas of training and knowledge. "Time has come to stand up for the European social model, which is the key pillar of redistributing wealth. It is the task of progressive politicians at all levels of government to fight for sufficient resources for projects in our cities and regions", she stressed.

The debates, moderated by Anna Terrón i Cusí, Special Advisor to the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, were structured around two roundtables: the first on EU tools for creating a circular labour migration, and the second on Best practices of circular labour mobility matched with local jobs.

Opening the first panel, Maria João Rodrigues MEP, Vice-President of the S&D Group in the European Parliament, pointed out that the political tools in place aimed at encouraging a circular labour mobility, including the new Erasmus + programme for education and training and the European Network of Employment Services (EURES) – needed to be accompanied by a better use of structural funds, as well as new financial instruments, such as the European investment package, promised by Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the next European Commission. She recalled that "there cannot be investment in innovation without investment in people".

Gunnar Muent, Director for Innovation and Competitiveness in the European Investment Bank, pointed to a series of challenges in implementing projects aimed at supporting young people entering the labour market, that is, too few jobs, too few skilled people and regional mismatch. "Paradoxically, the best trained generation ever in Europe is victim of underinvestment and huge underemployment", he stressed, calling for the swift deployment of the available European funds.

Susanne Hoffmann, Director-General for European and International Employment and Social Policies at the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, emphasised the need to pass from a bilateral approach on brain circulation to a European approach, including also low-skilled workforce, for example with the help of the European Social Fund. "The creation of a European-wide network on brain circulation would be a step in the right direction", she concluded.

Speaking on behalf of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), ETUC Youth Officer Ignacio Doreste stressed the need to focus also on the individual's experience. "This is crucial for more vulnerable groups of young people, who are either jobless or have poor quality jobs because in such situations, workers' rights may be jeopardised when it comes to labour mobility.

Opening the second panel, Catiuscia Marini, President of the Umbria Region (Italy) and 1st Vice‑President of the Committee of the Regions, presented the start-up Brain Back Umbria and I-MOVE (Initiative for the MObility and deVElopment of researchers' careers), two major projects implemented in her region.

Graça Fonseca, Lisbon City Councillor for Education, Economy and Innovation, reported on the experience of a major project implemented by the city of Lisbon, the business incubator Start-up Lisboa, which was visited by PES Group members during the study visit of the meeting – and which provides entrepreneurs and companies – from tech, commerce and tourism sectors – with office spaces as well as a with a support structure, in order to maximise their chances for success.

Antonio Miguel Carmona, Regional Councillor of Madrid and PSOE candidate for the municipal elections in May 2015, called for public investment in knowledge and innovation. "The objective is to focus talent on the needs of the local labour market and to identify such talent in time", he stressed that city councils are in a position to do so because of their proximity to local labour markets and knowledge of their needs.

Last but not least, Dr Howard Williamson, Professor of European Youth Policy at the University of South Wales, UK, called for a '"dispersed return'" of young people: "By creating social infrastructures, we need to attract young people not only to the capital cities, but also to smaller towns and rural communities", he emphasised.

Anna Terrón i Cusí concluded the works stating that progressive local and regional authorities are key players for promoting brain circulation on the ground. At the same time, she urged that the issue should be taken up in the EU's political agenda and that it should translate into sufficient investments in the creation of jobs, especially for young people.