EUROPE - PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has warned that the business competitiveness of the European Union is under threat due to obstacles such as cross border pensions and employment regulations that prevent workforce mobility.
To combat this, the EU must remove these obstructions and address the problems of pensions, employment regulation, tax and benefits systems, and immigration throughout the Union.
The PwC report comes just days after the European Commission unveiled its new action plan last Wednesday aimed at improving worker mobility and opening up the Euro labour market by 2005.
PwC found that 70% of the 400 businesses surveyed across eight European countries expect their need for mobile employees to increase over the next five years, whilst 48% admit they are already experiencing problems in recruiting senior staff. The firm adds that business will be listening with interest as to how European leaders propose to tackle these barriers at the forthcoming European Council meeting in Barcelona in March.
Kevin Delany, PwC partner - human resource consulting, said: “These results act as a wake-up call to business to put strategy for international labour mobility high on the corporate agenda, embrace new flexible ways of employing a mobile workforce, and consider the needs and expectations of a new generation of potentially mobile workers.
“Companies need clear strategic reasons for sending staff abroad and recruiting from other countries. Otherwise they will lag behind their more enlightened competitors. Companies can no longer count on the loyalty of their employees.”
In the absence of EU government moves to address the difficulties facing its workforce, PwC believes that businesses should take action themselves. Rather than concentrate at the younger end of the mobile worker pool, companies should look at using older mobile workers and local labour pools.
Additionally, firms should look at developing sustainable global policies for managing employees working internationally. Policy areas that need to be addressed include recruitment and retention, remuneration and diversity.
The study also included a MORI survey of 10,000 employees in 10 countries.
Key findings of the report included:
* On average 57% of businesses feel that a willingness to be mobile is very important at the senior manager level and 48% at the professional level. But, 48% had difficulty recruiting senior managers and professionals.
For business, the five most important barriers to mobility are:
* The lack of integrated employment legislation – seen by 40% as a significant barrier
* Differences between tax systems – also seen by 40% as a significant barrier
* Need to provide spousal employment – seen by 39% as a significant barrier
* Lack of language skills – seen by 35% as a significant barrier
* Differences between benefit systems – seen by 32% as a barrier
* 68% of businesses agree that demographic change will increase the need for mobile workers
* More businesses in Spain than any other country surveyed say the need will increase (85%); fewest businesses in the Czech Republic anticipate an increase (47%)
By Geoffrey Ho and Luke Clancy
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