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EU action plan delivering on conditions attracting highly skilled global workforce

The European Commission, on 7 June, presented its Action Plan supporting member states in their efforts to integrate third country nationals and ensure they can better contribute economically and socially to their host communities. Importantly this plan is accompanied by a proposal to reform labour market integration policy towards creating better and more attractive conditions for highly skilled migrants looking to work in the European context.

Europe and its member states facing common challenges in demographic changes, labour market and skills shortages, supports the need for a common framework that strengthens the attraction and retention of a global talent pool, to insure long term competitiveness and sustainable growth of the Union.  Even with the capacities that the New Skills Agenda for Europe seeks to build (see ACA newsletter – Education Europe, June 2016)  - aiming to upgrade the skills of the EU-workforce and already including several tools to improve and recognize the skills of migrants - a need to attract additional talent in the future, remains substantial.  

An OECD study ‘’Recruiting Immigrant Workers: Europe “confirms that the EU is losing a fair share of highly educated migrants to other OECD destinations.  The report shows that the EU currently hosts a mere 31% of highly skilled migrants from outside the EU, with over half of the talent pool (57%) residing in North America, while those migrants coming to the EU are generally younger and less educated. Furthermore the joint study between the OECD and the Commission, confirms that the conditions for early integration are key in securing foreign talent to effectively contribute to enhanced performance of labour markets, bridge demographic gaps, and improve fiscal sustainability. A benefit outweighing by far, the cost and risk of non-investment in integration.

The EU Blue Card scheme, adopted in 2009, having now proven ineffective and significantly underused, due to restrictive admission conditions and conflicting rules at national levels, a reform of existing rules has been called for. In line with the objectives set by the Juncker Commission 2014, on the promotion of a new European migration policy that addresses skills shortages and attracts talent, including review of the Blue Card, the new proposal to revamp the rules includes:

  • Clearer conditions for applicants and employers are established through a single EU- wide scheme
  • Lower salary thresholds, adjusted to labour market context of different member states, will make it easier for recent graduates and workers from third countries to take up work in areas with labour shortage.
  • Enhanced intra-EU mobility , including the right to travel between states for up to 90 days
  • Blue Card holders’ are allowed immediate and flexible labour market access and faster long-term residency status. Family members are ensured to join Blue Card holders. 

It is estimated that the positive annual impact of the new Blue Card scheme would range between EUR 1.4-6.2 billion.

Not only fames supporting integration but the concrete removal of obstacles seems on its way- the now revised scheme securing access to labour markets, combined with the recent directive that created better residence and entry conditions for foreign researchers and students (see ACA Newsletter - Education Europe, March 2016) , set the frame for both attracting and retaining the brightest young graduates and foreign talent in European societies and economies.  

European Commission-press release