EU job qualifications directive: More red tape?

Brussels is planning a new directive (another one!) regulating the way countries assess job qualifications obtained in other member states in order to try to increase employee mobility in Europe.

The planned directive will apply to a number of so-called “regulated professions”. In each member state, such professions will be divided into five categories, depending on the level of qualifications an employee needs to do a certain type of work. Jobs that need only a vocational level of education are classified as level one, while level five signifies professions in which a master’s degree is required.

The new directive proposes introducing a European Professional Card, which an employee’s country of origin will issue, attesting to his or her professional qualifications. So, we’ll be walking around with another piece of plastic in our wallet that will stick us firmly in a pigeon hole. How great is that?

The big difference between the continent and the Anglo-saxon countries is that in the latter a degree is seen as proof that you have brains, so you can apply them to whatever you fancy. If you have a degree in zoology you can become a barrister or an accountant if you so wish. On the continent however, if you have a degree in zoology you will only be considered for zoology jobs. Becoming an accountant is thus impossible. That is the pigeon hole the card will cement even further and will reduce labour mobility.

Until now, qualifications and job experience obtained in one EU member state have had to be checked by the authorities of the country in which a foreign employee wants to work, according to the EU. However, this might only be the case for professions such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, etc. Most of these industries already have verification systems in place, so what this European Professional Card will bring to the party is not quite clear to me. More red tape perhaps? More reason to employ even more state officials?

According to the EU, citizens from other EU states need to have their diplomas and certificates translated in order to be able to work. Well, that is only the case in officialdom. I don’t think I have ever had to have my degrees translated into English. A simple phone call or email to my old university in Holland seemed to be enough to confirm I got my degree there. Employers do check CVs, but it is impossible to “value” a foreign degree as it is often impossible to know how a university or school is regarded in that country. A standardised card won’t change that. Recruiters will still have to evaluate a person on their capabilities, rather than rely on a standard card. The card will only be another small piece in the jigsaw.

“The new directive also introduces common education standards. The new rules aim to make it easier for member states with high educational standards to place their trust in school and training certificates issued abroad.”

Hmmm. Unless we have a European wide ranking system in which every school, university, etc is ranked based on quality and is independently verified the card is useless. It’s a good start, but the reasoning behind the assessment needs to be transparent. If not, every country can “value” their university as being on par with the likes of Oxford, Leiden, Milano, etc.

So far there seems to be a lot of talk about procedures, but very little about transparancy and how they want to compare degrees across borders. Judge for yourself.

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