Today’s labour markets are increasingly global, interconnected and interdependent. Matching labour market supply with demand is no longer just a national or regional consideration, but must be viewed in a global context.

Despite the fact that more than 200 million people around the world are looking for a job, 38% of companies face difficulties filling jobs due to lack of available talent. Cooperation between labour markets is an important factor in mitigating this issue. Widening the source of work and workers and dialogue across borders brings multiple benefits — maximising labour market participation, reducing unemployment and ensuring well-functioning employment markets.

Europe is the only region of the world that has supra-national institutions and governance in place to support this process. With 28 member states and more than 500 million people, the European Union represents the largest single trading block in the world. It operates a single, common market founded on the four key principles of freedom of movement of goods, services, capital and people — including mobility of labour. This applies not just to the EU members, but also to the four EEA/EFTA countries — Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Within the Eurozone, 19 EU member states share a single currency, thus further easing trade and services.

This affords Europe a significant advantage in the area of labour market cooperation and also presents an opportunity to drive competitiveness. Each of the three EU institutions — the Council, the Commission and the Parliament — plays a role in promoting cooperation and driving efficient and effective employment markets.

Council. The EU Employment Council, comprising the national employment ministers from each of the 28 EU states, meets regularly to discuss labour laws, employment market efficiency and share best practice. There remain considerable differences between the countries, and those whose employment legislation lags behind the reality of today’s labour markets are encouraged to update their regulation.

Commission. The European Commission has introduced some important policy initiatives to address employment challenges in recent years. Its promotion of public/private partnership (PPP) between employment services has resulted in the more efficient matching of workers with jobs and getting Europeans back to work; its Youth Guarantee Scheme has created opportunities for those under 25 to get a foot on the employment ladder; and its initiatives around labour mobility and the posting of workers has opened the way for greater intra-EU mobility of labour. The recent New Skills Agenda for Europe too takes significant steps to train people with the skills they need to move from declining industries into sectors of economic growth.

Parliament. The European Parliament, with its knowledge of what is taking place on-the-ground across the member states, brings an important perspective to legislation, ensuring that it will have a positive impact on the lives of citizens as they look to secure employment and update their skills.

Currently, just % of the EU workforce lives and works in a country other than their own. The younger generation, which have a more international outlook and are equipped with broader language skills than their parents and grandparents, are most likely to take advantage of the opportunities to work and live across Europe.

Increased competitiveness is another key benefit of cooperation across Europe’s labour markets.

Discrepancies still continue, of course, and the 2 EU labour markets do not all function with equal efficiency. Reducing these differences and creating a level playing field that provides equal opportunity for workers and employers alike is a work in progress.

While Brexit will clearly change the nature of the UK’s future employment relationship with the EU, I believe there will still be a need for a common policy. We cannot hold back the tide of change: we live in an interconnected world and companies operating in the global marketplace want to employ the best people from across the world. Europe needs to create policies and regulations that ensure that they can continue to do so.