Public consultation on the EU Blue Card and the EU’s labour migration policies
Eurocadres has decided to respond to the Blue Card consultation by a separate paper. As a cross-sectoral European trade union, we have chosen to reply to a selection of the questions put forward by the Commission. We have decided to focus on sections 6 (EU Blue Card) and 7 (Qualifications).
The Blue Card was established to address labour shortage in sectors requiring high skills and allowing third country nationals to stay for more than three months for work purposes. It was intended to be a fast-track system for highly skilled professionals and their families. Eurocadres is a strong supporter of skills exchange and therefore highly in favour of the principle of the Blue Card directive.
Professional mobility and the exchange of skills and qualifications makes our labour markets more dynamic. The amount of Blue Cards granted are limited and the card system is mostly utilised by Germany. Clearly, the reasons for the limited use of the Blue Card vary between the different member states. Some have still not fully implemented the provisions or have opted out. In other member states, there are already systems in place for labour immigration for highly qualified workers.
These national systems may sometimes be easier to utilise compared to the Blue Card provisions. Therefore, the low numbers in statistics of the Blue Cards issued does not necessarily mean that there is no highly qualified labour immigration to the country.
Part 6 – EU Blue Card
The Blue Card will only be more successful if it provides advantages compared to national labour migration systems. What comes to the admission conditions set out in the directive, we realise that certain criteria need to be met, such as presenting professional qualifications.
What comes to salary conditions, we have to remember that these people are highly skilled professionals and deserve salary accordingly. It must be ensured that the Blue Card holder is treated the same way as the nationals in wage setting mechanisms. We have to combat wage dumping and instead make sure that decent working conditions and fair jobs are offered.
To ensure efficient use of the Blue Card in member states we emphasise the following options: fast-track entry procedures, availability of integration support (e.g. language courses, job orientation) for highly qualified workers and family members, and easy intra-EU mobility to take up employment opportunities in other Member States. With less bureaucracy and easy administrative procedures, we make Europe more attractive and accessible.
Providing sufficient support and language training is vital for the integration process and for the professional development of individuals. In addition, as we are strong supporters of mobility, we encourage a flexible intra-EU labour exchange. As enquired in question 6.19, this of course requires one unified and visible EU-wide scheme, such as an improved EU Blue Card without parallel national programmes.
We agree that a unified EU-wide scheme would improve: the attractiveness of the EU for highly qualified migrants as compared with having many parallel national schemes; the clarity and simplicity for potential highly qualified migrants; and offers easier mobility between EU Member States for non-EU highly qualified migrants to react to labour market changes.
However, some member states have more extensive labour immigration systems in place than the Blue Card provision, which make it easier for highly qualified persons to take up employment and for employers to gain access to skilled labour force from outside the EU.
It would be counter-productive if requirements to abolish national systems in favour of a harmonised European system would have the effect of restricting and reducing highly qualified labour immigration. This would be detrimental both for the individuals in question as well as for European employers, and as a consequence for the European economy as a whole.
Secondly, the labour immigration systems are different in the member states and since the Blue Card does not cover all forms of labour immigration, these systems will inevitably have to remain in place at least partly.
On one side, it may be more efficient in some countries to discontinue national processes for highly qualified workers. For others, it will complicate matters to dismantle parts of well-functioning, comprehensive systems of labour immigration resulting in greater administrative burdens and costs.
We would welcome an expansion of the Blue Card scheme to the following category: Facilitation for international students (graduates from third countries who obtained a higher education degree in the EU). It is, however, unclear how this differs from the provisions for the entry of third-country nationals for research, studies and training.
In the case of a job-seeking permit for highly skilled non-EU nationals, the cost of living during the stay is an important issue. If the applicant cannot provide the financial means to cover these costs and there are not allowances to cover them either it can drive the job seeker to precarious work in grey or black economy.
Expanding the EU Blue Card scheme to entrepreneurs, de facto self-employed, can also lead to precarious work situations. As a self-employed would not be employed per se, no wages would be paid. Other conditions than wage levels would therefore have to be set up. In theory, adding entrepreneurs as a category could promote job creation, innovation and mobility. However, there are challenges that need to be addressed for this to be a viable option.
Part 7 - Qualifications
Recognition of degrees and qualifications is at the core of a functioning dynamic labour market. However, the overall recognition of qualifications – European or non-European – is still not perfect. Member states have difficulties in implementing qualification frameworks, which slows down the flexibility of the labour market. Therefore, the most important initiative from member states would be a better use the qualifications frameworks to support recognition.