Global Mobility of Workers
Trends and Issues Alert 35.
by Bettina Lankard Brown
This project has been funded at least in part with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education under Contract No. ED-99-CO-0013. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. ERIC/ACVE publications may be freely reproduced.
Changes in the world economy such as globalization, free trade in services, and unequal demand for some occupations have resulted in increased cross-national movement of workers and emphasized the need for easily transferable or international qualifications. Leading the effort to address the issue of transferable qualifications is the European Union, which was established by the European Economic Community in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992. The European Union introduced a community vocational training policy to support the free movement of workers across borders and to facilitate the acquisition of skills for transnational employment (Bainbridge and Murray 2000b). Adopting a user-oriented rather than legislative approach to mobility, the European Union emphasizes the acquisition of foreign language skills, intercultural (or transcultural) skills, and transferable job skills that include key qualifications (Kristensen 1999). Although member countries have their own specific national systems for defining vocational qualifications, they are responsible for ensuring congruence between the laws and the organization of vocational training so as to promote mutual recognition of qualifications. Other countries, including Australia (Bohm 2000), are looking to the practices of the European Union regarding internationally recognized qualifications.
The international movement of workers has implications for corporate and national training systems that prepare individuals with qualifications that ensure their employability. Language skills must not only include the ability to interact with members of other language communities but also skills that enable workers to understand practices and behaviors of people in other cultures. The rapid turnover in technology is requiring the continual updating of technical skills and an emphasis on skills of "adaptability, self-reliance, quality-consciousness, independence, creativity, the ability to deal with insecurity, the ability to unlearn old things and learn new ones, etc. These skills are difficult if not impossible to teach in a normal classroom situation. They require new teaching methods, a new pedagogical approach" (Kristensen 1999, p. 130). Work placement, work-linked training, and apprenticeships have been some of the vehicles for enhancing worker mobility, but there is still much to be done in this area.
Not all obstacles to mobility, however, can be resolved through renewed education and training systems and practices. Posing continued difficulty for the mobility of workers across international borders are the potential for unemployed citizens to lose the right to unemployment benefits and social security if they move across borders, difficulty with obtaining housing in the host country, and cultural barriers (Bainbridge and Murray 2000a).
The following resources provide more specific information about transborder mobility of workers.
Bainbridge, S., and Murray, J. An Age of Learning: Vocational Training Policy at European Level. CEDEFOP Vocational Training Policy Report 2000. Thessaloniki, Greece: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 2000a. (ED 438 416)
Bainbridge, S., and Murray, J. "Political and Legal Framework for the Development of Training Policy in the European Union. Part IóFrom the Treaty of Rome to the Treaty of Maastricht." Vocational Training: European Journal no. 20 (May-August 2000b): 5-18.
Bjornavold, J., and Petterson, S. Transparency of Vocational Qualifications. The Leonardo da Vinci Approach. CEDEFOP Panorama Series. Thessaloniki, Greece: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 2001. (ED 454 407)
Blitz, B. K. "Professional Mobility and the Mutual Recognition of Qualifications in the European Union: Two Institutional Approaches." Comparative Education Review 43, no. 3 (August 1999): 311-331.
Bohm, A. "The Search for Global Mobility: Professional Qualifications Recognition." Paper presented at the 14th IDP Australian International Education Conference, Brisbane, Australia, August 8-11, 2000.
Education, Training and Research: Eliminating Obstacles to Transnational Mobility. Green Paper. Brussels, Belgium: European Commission, Directorate-General XXII: Education and Training Youth, 1996. <http://www.teipat.gr/pages/stud_exchange/leonardo/lvhpen.html>
Graf, P. "Multilingual School Education as a Key Qualification in European Employment Area." Vocational Training: European Journal no. 18 (September-December 1999): 39-46.
Helse, W. "Portability of Qualifications: An Answer to the Qualifications Demands of Globalisation?" Journal of European Industrial Training 22, no. 7 (1998): 289-300.
Huws, U.; Jagger, N.; and Bates, P. Where the Butterfly Alights: The Global Location of eWork. EMERGENCE. IES Report 378. Brighton, England: Institute for Employment Studies, University of Sussex, 2001. (ED 452 400)
Johnson, J. M., and Regets, M. C. International Mobility of Scientists and Engineers to the United StatesóBrain Drain or Brain Circulation? SRS Issue Brief. Arlington, VA: Division of Science Resources Studies, National Science Foundation, 1998. (ED 422 166)
Kornbeck, J. "Foreign Language Instruction, Vocational Training and Location Securing." Vocational Training: European Journal no. 16 (January-April 1999): 29-38.
Kristensen, S. "Mobility as a Learning Process." Vocational Training: European Journal no. 16 (January-April 1999): 24-28.
Nyyssola, K., ed. New Challenges in the Cooperation between Education and Training and Working Life. Final Report. Conference Proceedings. Brussels, Belgium: Commission of the European Communities, 1999. (ED 449 367)
Sassinopoulos, A.; Werner, H.; Kristensen, S. Mobility and Migration of Labour in the European Union and Their Specific Implications for Young People. CEDEFOP Document. Thessaloniki, Greece: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, 1998. (ED 422 507)
Sogaard, J., and Wollschlager, N., comps. Internationalising Vocational Education and Training in Europe: Prelude to an Overdue Debate. A Discussion Paper, Conference on Internationalising Vocational Education and Training in Europe. A CEDEFOP Panorama Series. Thessalonki, Greece: European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, May 25-27, 2000. (ED 441 144)
Wickett, D., and McCutcheon, H. "Issues of Qualification Assessment for Nurses in a Global Market." Nurse Education Today 22, no. 1 (January 2002): 44-52.
Discusses issues that relate to the assessment of the qualifications of nurses who wish to migrate to or seek employment in Australia. Some of these issues are English language assessment, qualification assessment, competency assessment, timeliness, cost, and equity.