Workplace Wire

Connecting employers to developments in labour, employment & pension law

Europeans Move to Streamline Immigration Process Signals an Intensification of Competition for Skilled Workers


The European parliament has recently passed a directive providing greater rights to foreign workers and significantly streamlining the process for gaining entry to the EU as a foreign worker. 

The law specifically allows non-EU individuals who are working legally within the EU to benefit from a range of rights similar to those of EU citizens.  This means that foreign workers will now benefit from the same rights as EU members with respect to working conditions, government pensions, social security, and access to a wide range of public services.

The law also significantly streamlines the application process for foreign workers through providing a single process for attaining approval to work in the EU.  Currently, foreign worker applicants in many EU countries must follow two separate processes, one for a work permit and one for an entry visa. 

Despite these changes, each EU member state retains the power to decide whether or not to admit any non-EU individual and the number of people to admit. 

The directive applies to both non-EU nationals who wish to live and work in an EU member state or who already legally reside and work there. 

The new law excludes a range of categories including long-term residents, seasonal workers and intra-company transferees, who are subject to separate directives.

So, why do the changes matter to us on the other side of the Atlantic?

These directives matter because they are in large part aimed at addressing a chronic problem that both Canada and most EU countries face: Aging labour forces and low birth rates.

Specifically, Canada is becoming increasingly dependant on temporary foreign labour to the point where this category has now replaced permanent residency as the primary source of foreign labour.  Canada’s immigration laws are also increasingly focused on ensuring that organizations can find the skills needed in order to facilitate their own growth and competitiveness. 

This latest directive serves as further evidence that it now appears that the EU, following a long period of inaction on this front, is prepared to approach skilled labour shortages with renewed vigour. 

In an increasingly globalized world, the reality is that such directives are aimed at the same people that Canada will need in order to address its own present and looming skill shortages. 

And that is precisely why it matters to us on the other side of the Atlantic.

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