While some political parties in the Netherlands want to reduce the number of foreign workers coming to the country, the EU Commission has come up with a package of new measures to make the EU more attractive to foreign workers, including a database to match employers and jobseekers.
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The commission has recommended member states simplify and speed up procedures to recognise the qualifications and skills of non-EU citizens, bringing it closer to the system used for people from other EU countries. The priority is for regulated professions, such as nurses, teachers and accountants, for which a certificate from a regulatory body is necessary to work.
The commission has asked EU countries to “significantly reduce the gap in the over-qualification rate between third-country nationals and their own nationals by 2030.”
Over-qualification is when people with university degrees are employed in jobs that do not require such a high level of education. In 2022, the share of overqualified people working in the EU was 22%, but the proportion reached 32% for citizens of other EU countries and 39% for non-EU nationals.
In the Netherlands 16% of workers are overqualified for their jobs, but the rate increases to 22% for EU citizens living in the country and 28% for non-EU citizens, Eurostat figures show.
The commission also proposed creating an ‘EU talent pool’ that would help match employers in the EU with jobseekers in non-EU countries. However, this would cover only the 3% of jobs not filled last year by EU citizens or residents, the commission said.
Besides job opportunities, the online platform will provide information on recruitment and migration rules, procedures for the recognition of qualifications and skills, as well as working and living conditions.
“Third country nationals recruited through the EU Talent Pool will enjoy the same rights and obligations as domestic workers once they are in employment,” the commission says.
The plan still has to be agreed by the European parliament and council and it will remain voluntary for EU member states.
Mobility and languages
In addition, the commission recommended member states encourage language learning at all stages of education and training.
“Our drive to fill labour market gaps has to start at home, with robust measures to support the domestic workforce. But labour migration can be an important complementary means of filling persistent gaps,” said commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas.
According to a Eurobarometer survey, the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises (54%) find hiring staff with the right skills difficult. The problem is especially acute for technical staff such as lab workers and mechanics.
Dutch small firms
Among Dutch SMEs, 66% reported difficulties in finding employees with the desired skills. The proportion is higher than the EU average for technicians (53% over 42%), while it is lower for customer care experts (20% over 23%) and IT experts (11% over 18%).
Some 36% of Dutch SMEs said they tried to plug skill shortages hiring people from other EU countries and 25% from outside the EU (the EU average is 14% and 16% respectively). While 56% said they didn’t have difficulties hiring other EU citizens, 36% reported language problems.
Reducing both EU and non-EU migration is a key issue in the general election campaign, with the two leading parties, the VVD and NSC, both calling for substantial cuts.
The issue is also likely to have a key role in the cabinet formation talks that will follow the vote.
Recognising that EU employers face shortages in as many as 28 professions, and that an ageing population will make the situation worse, last year the European Commission also proposed changes to the rules on work and residence permits for non-EU nationals.
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