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European workers catch travel bug


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With 25 countries to choose from, the European Union is slowly opening up to worker mobility.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- More Europeans than ever before would consider working in another country, according to new research.

In a survey of more than 11,000 workers from across the continent, just 11 percent of Europeans said they would not move abroad in any circumstances.

The most popular incentive for working away from home among the rest (28 percent) was the chance to learn a new language and experience a different culture.

But more than a quarter -- 27 percent -- also said they would move in search of a better quality of life, and 22 percent would do so if the right career opportunity came along.

Money was a consideration for just 12 percent of those polled.

In the U.S. it has long been common for workers to re-locate between states or across long distances in search of job satisfaction.

In Europe, however, the problems involved in moving across international borders have stymied the free flow of labor.

Whereas around 2.5 percent of the American population move across state boundaries annually, just 0.1 percent of Europeans change their country of residence each year.

Pensions and benefits

European Union citizens have had the right to work in other member states since the 1958 Treaty of Rome, which established the European Economic Community, although it wasn't until 1971 that pensions and social security benefits became transferable between member states.

But for many people the problems of dealing with incompatible social security systems, as well as linguistic and cultural differences, have acted as a deterrent to the free movement of labor across the continent.

Now, with the expansion of the E.U. to 25 members, and with the European Commission committed to opening up a pan-European labor market as a means of boosting economic competitiveness, it is finally becoming easier to move between countries.

In 2002 the Commission unveiled measures to facilitate the transfer of pensions and benefits, proposals to introduce a pan-European health card and to lower barriers to professional recognition.

"With the expansion of the European Union, borders between countries are becoming less noticeable and Europeans are becoming more flexible and mobile," said Kai Deininger, head of communications at online recruitment firm Monster, which conducted the poll.

"This presents a great business case for companies as the pool of candidates to fill positions is now larger. Given the right conditions, workers will take up new challenges and move to work abroad. Having the option to choose where to work and what talent to hire is of extreme benefit to both job seekers and employers."

But while Europe as a whole becomes more mobile, there are still striking national differences in attitudes towards moving abroad.

Irish workers were the least willing to move, with a third saying they would not leave their country -- perhaps not surprising given that Ireland is considered one of the top destinations for many workers from the new European Union nations.

Although Swedes are considered to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world, more than half (51 percent) of those polled said they would move abroad in search of a higher standard of living.

A third of Spaniards (36 percent) said they would move for a good career opportunity, with money at the bottom of their list of motivating factors. By contrast, a poll-high 18 percent of Italians and Finns said money would be their main consideration in moving away from home.


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