Cross-border labour mobility in the Central Baltic region

Increasing labour mobility is a policy goal both at the EU level and for the Baltic Sea Region. National labour market policies in Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden do not however explicitly address this issue. While these national labour markets are different in many respects, they nevertheless face a number of common challenges such as a shrinking labour force, due to e.g. large age cohorts retiring, and increasing labour demand in certain sectors (e.g. health care, ICT). Migration for work-related reasons is already significant in the Central Baltic region with considerable migration flows between both Estonia and Finland and Finland and Sweden. However, overall, cross-border labour mobility remains relatively low in the rest of the Central Baltic region.

The report provides a general picture of the labour market situation in the Central Baltic region, focusing on the issue of how cross-border labour mobility could be facilitated, particularly in the sectors with high demand for additional labour. According to this analysis, all countries covered in the report face labour shortages within the health care, social services, engineering, ICT and construction sectors. Furthermore, the report identifies obstacles to cross-border labour mobility both at the institutional and individual levels. In general there is a lack of knowledge and cooperation on cross-border labour mobility among relevant actors in the region. More specifically, the absence of adequate language skills and problems relating to the portability of social benefits and pension rights can clearly be seen to be impeding cross-border mobility.

In order to tackle these obstacles, increased cooperation is required between labour market actors within the regions/countries and specifically between the countries of Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Sweden to jointly take steps towards the development of the common labour market. It is necessary to improve data collection and forecasting tools to address the lack and/or incomparability of statistical data regarding cross-border mobility. The job seekers and employers would benefit from better practical support. While there already is significant amount of information regarding working abroad, it is often rather difficult to access or apply in practice. Therefore, user-friendly step-by-step guidelines and tools are necessary.

The research was carried out in the framework of the Centralbaltic Job Ferry project (implemented during 2011-2013) that was co-financed from the Baltic INTERREG IV A Programme 2007-2013.