Statistical sources and analysis

1.6 Cultural and Institutional issues: Eurobarometer

Job mobility is generally accepted as an important aspect to meet the Lisbon Agenda goal the EU set itself in March 2000; "to become the most competitive and dynamic knowledge based economy in the world, capable of sustaining economic growth and more and better jobs and greater social cohesion" (European Commission, 2003). In this context, the European Commission designated 2006 as "European Year of Worker's Mobility" and in order to examine the complex phenomenon of mobility in Europe an Eurobarometer survey dedicated to labour and geographical mobility was carried out in September 2005. This section aims to summarise the findings of the analysis of this survey carried out by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Working and Living Conditions.

From a theoretical perspective one of the most accepted theories on labour and career mobility that was used in the report was the "trans-national market theory" developed by Schmid19. This theory proposes a strategy of qualitative growth rather than the traditional emphasis on economic and employment growth. Schmid argues that the ideal of full employment in the traditional sense is not a realistic goal due to the growing individualization of our societies; instead labour policies should focus in facilitating the transitions between periods of work, unemployment, education and non-activity.

It is important to highlight the fact that mobility decisions are generally not isolated decisions, but rather a part of a complex decision making process in which geographical, societal, occupational and relational issues all take part and interrelate themselves. The concept of "bounded mobility" has been recently introduced to acknowledge these interrelations between geographical and labour mobility with individual and family needs. Figures from the Eurobarometer indicate that about a third of job mobility decisions are a consequence of people voluntarily choosing to improve their labour market position, leaving the remaining two thirds as forced job mobility decisions, or related to a search for better balance between family and work life. Further investigation of the bounded mobility concept is recommended as it can affect women more than men at certain moments of the life-cycle and also influenced by specific cultural and institutional aspects in each country.

There also seems to be a correlation between the classification of welfare states as defined by Esping-Anderson20 and the levels of job mobility in the EU countries. At the high end of the job mobility scale are the social-democratic and liberal welfare state countries (such as Sweden, Finland and Netherlands), which includes Ireland. Corporative regimes, such as Germany and France, score lower in job mobility. The countries of Southern Europe such as Portugal, Greece and Italy show higher work security but show the lowest overall job mobility rates. Spain is also included in this group, but is somewhat of an exception since it shows job mobility levels closer or above EU average not correspondent with its welfare state regime classification. However, as we previously noted, mobility in the ICT sector is particularly high for Spanish women. Also, Spain , we remind here, has the highest fixed-term employment rate of the EU (around 35%).

The opinions and attitudes of people towards labour and geographical mobility gathered in the Eurobarometer study are a fairly valid predictor of readiness to move. However, it is important to distinguish perceptions and opinions from clear intentions. The majority of Europeans (62%) consider geographical and job mobility as “a good thing”. If faced with unemployment, most Europeans would be ready to move. Regarding gender, women were less willing to move than men if faced with unemployment. Job and geographical mobility is closely linked to living and working conditions, and both processes should be studied in conjunction to obtain optimal outcomes, which clearly has links with the concept of bounded mobility.

The link between job mobility and geographical mobility indicates a complex and dynamic relationship between the two types of mobility, which are essentially interdependent and interrelated processes. Findings suggest that highly educated, well off and younger groups often apply and complement better geographical and job mobility. More vulnerable groups such as single parents, blue collar workers and people with temporary contracts are more likely to forced into geographical and job mobility as a survival mechanism rather than as a free choice. From a gender perspective, women seem to be more aware of the costs of geographical mobility to family ties and social networks21. As we also briefly mentioned above and attempt to explain in the following chapter, there is a big difference between workers with a high persistence of fixed term and low paying jobs.

From an economical perspective, geographical and job mobility are generally viewed as positive, its advantages include the enhancement of employment opportunities, adaptability, greater economic well-being and the prevention of unemployment. The social point of view of geographical and job mobility suggests that it can lead to improved jobs and prevention of social exclusion caused by unemployment. However, negative effects such as the loss of social network and difficulties of reconciliation of family and work life are also present as well as being trapped in a series of fixed term and low paying jobs. Current findings indicate that if policies favour job security and flexibility, job and geographical mobility are positive for both the economy and the individual. However, the more vulnerable groups of society are the ones experiencing higher levels of forced mobility, resulting in a much less favourable outcome for the individual and the economy.