EU 'blue card' to lure skilled labour

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The Independent Online

The EU has unveiled plans to launch Europe's biggest global job advertising blitz and set up a US-style "green card" visa programme to lure skilled workers.

The plan aims to improve the EU's ability to attract and retain professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers and IT workers from outside Europe in an attempt to fill shortages of skilled jobs through a fast-track "blue card" worker visa programme. "We are not good enough at attracting highly skilled people," said José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, who along with Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner in charge of immigration issues, presented the plan.

Mr Barroso said it would offer highly qualified job seekers a simpler way to get a job within the EU and, if approved by EU governments, would do away with about 20 different complex national procedures to get residence and work permits. The measures would seek to lure professionals from across Asia, Africa and Latin America to work and live in the EU.

Mr Frattini said the EU was behind countries such as the US, Australia and Canada in attracting skilled labour. He pointed to statistics which showed that, in the EU, highly qualified workers from outside its borders accounted for 0.9 per cent of all workers in the union, compared to 9.9 per cent in Australia, 7.3 per cent in Canada and 3.5 per cent in the US. "These figures show very clearly that, for the highly skilled workers, Europe is not very attractive and this is the reason why we have decided to launch this proposal, that I am sure is going to make the EU somewhat more attractive," he said.

Those who got the "blue card" would have the right to social and other employment benefits enjoyed by EU citizens and would, after an initial two-year freeze, be able to move to another EU state if they found another job there.