The mutual recognition of professional qualifications is not a driver of cross-border labour mobility. However, not recognising qualifications can lead to worse jobs.

UM – 11/2019

One third of migrant workers feel overqualified for their job. This figure increases to 40% for people working as personal care workers. The reasons include a lack of language skills, but also inadequate recognition of their professional qualifications.

Focus on recognition of professional qualifications

These findings are the result of the study ‘Labour mobility and recognition in the regulated professions’ conducted by the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal EU-Policies on behalf of the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL). The aim of the study is to give Members of the European Parliament an up-to-date overview of the results of the Professional Qualifications Directive of 7 September 2005, which was revised in 2013, and how the European system for the recognition of professional qualifications works. A report was presented to the Committee on 5 November.

System works well for health professionals

The main finding of the study is that the automatic recognition procedure, which has been established for professions where minimum training requirements are uniform across the EU, works well. This applies, for example, to doctors, but also to nurses.

Not so good for carpenters

It becomes more problematic where requirements have not been harmonised. This is where differences in training and professional requirements at national level become apparent and impede the mutual recognition of job qualifications. As a result, people looking for new career prospects in other EU countries because of their partner, unemployment, better earnings or other reasons find themselves in a job that is not appropriate to their skill level. Valuable potential remains untapped.

Transparency needed

The study acknowledges that the evidence and data available to assess the impact of the Professional Qualifications Directive (PQD) are limited. This is mainly due to the relatively short period of time since compliance became mandatory. The amended Directive 2013/55/EU was only fully implemented by the Member States in 2016. More information and transparency are needed to make a final assessment of how the PQD can be effectively implemented in practice, both at European and national level.

The recognition of professional qualifications lies within the competence of the Member States. The results of the study should also be seen as a call for more common ground across the Member States. This may not necessarily increase the number of people moving for work because people migrate whether there is mutual recognition of qualifications or not; however, it should result in them finding better jobs.