As an official appointed member of the EU Transparency Register, SHRM participated in the 4th meeting of the European Commission Expert Group on Economic Migration in Brussels on May 23, 2019—raising the voice of the HR profession around the world.
The European Commission uses expert meetings to get input from relevant stakeholders in different policy areas to formulate new policies. The expert meeting had representatives of several employers’ organisations, immigration law firms, OECD, OSCE Permits Foundation and the European Trade Union Committee for Education, discussed the role of labor migration in the future EU economic and social agenda. Similar discussions on Economic Migration were held with country representatives two weeks prior to this meeting.
Although the “Chatham House” rules of this meeting mean that I cannot tell you most of what we talked about, I can share some more general thoughts and opinions.
The main topic revolved around making sure labor migration becomes one of the EU tools to address skills and labor shortages, the challenges posed by a shrinking working-age population and how to make the EU more attractive for talented professionals.
All participants underlined the dilemma between the political sensitivity of the immigration debate vs the economic necessity to have a system that would make the EU more competitive and attractive, not only for the highly skilled but also for other categories of Third Country Nationals.
Another dilemma is that migration policy is a national sovereignty which in practice means that EU countries have different rules and regulations, which does not help in creating a coherent policy and countries might compete against each other in the battle for talent. On the other hand, SHRM emphasised the need from the private sector to have timely, flexible and predictable visa rules which enable staff to work and live within Europe. The EU Blue Card and the EU Intra Corporate Transferee regulation are making arrangements in this field but are transposed differently in the national legislation in the EU countries.
This is an example where more harmonisation would be desirable. A horizontal legislative instrument for labour migration might work here, but several participants favoured a more national approach and a better exchange of best practices or indicated that this would be a more realistic option, given the political sensitivities.
There was also discussion on the Fitness Check on EU Legal Migration, published in March 2019. The fitness check concluded that the current EU framework can be considered largely “fit for purpose” and also proved the relevance and added value of having an EU framework regulating this field. However, it also identified a number of critical issues regarding the relevance, coherence, effectiveness and efficiency of the current rules. The Fitness check also identified “gaps” in the current legal framework, in particularly a few categories of third-country nationals which are currently not covered: non-seasonal low and medium skilled workers, job seekers, service providers covered by the EU’s trade commitments (except Intra Corporate Transferees) and self-employed entrepreneurs.
Another issue SHRM raised along with the Permits Foundation, were the working rights for spouses/partners of expats. Currently, under both the EU Blue Card as the ICT directive, spouses and partners have direct work access, so it was concluded that the current legal migration directives are fit for purpose on this issue. However, the Blue Card is currently revised, and one of the proposals is to include a labour market check for family members. This would be a step back.
We also spoke about the potential added value of an EU wide tool to improve the job matching process and the interaction of the Economic Migration Policy with other policy areas such as the asylum policy, diversity or equal treatment policies.
These expert meetings are a very important tools for the European Commission to get input for new or revised policy design. SHRM’s worldwide thought leadership and active participation in high-level conversations contribute towards the design of business-friendly policies, alongside other international actors, while helping to identify trends and developments in the Human Resource field in Europe, and directly making an impact on HR professionals around the world.