Professional Labour Markets in Europe. Intermediaries, Conventions and Regulation
This paper starts from the observation that contrary to much of the globalization literature’s emphasis on cross-border flows and mobility, evidence on intra-European work mobility of professionals suggests that this group is relative immobile. This finding raises broader questions about the conditions and consequences of global mobility of professionals, within and beyond the European Union. The paper will proceed in four steps: Firstly, it will provide an overview of the literature on the impact of European regulation on the mobility and immobility of so-called “recognized professions” within its member states and the migration of professionals from third countries to the European Union. Secondly, based on the French sociology of conventions, it will be argued that even when formal regulations create cross-border equivalences between recognized qualifications in different member states and hence provide an opportunity space for transnational mobility, there remain many uncertainties about what these formal regulations mean in practice. It is only if we start to analyze the social conventions that different actors develop to deal with these uncertainties and to bridge across different economic, social and political contexts that we can gain a better understanding of the patterns and flows of cross-border mobility (and absence thereof) within the European multi-level governance system. A special focus will be on the role of intermediaries (such as temporary agencies, online job exchanges, migration chains, etc.). Thirdly, the paper will use statistical data from the European Labour Force Survey and case study results from secondary literature to illustrate the theoretical value of the sociology of conventions to conceptualize the conditions for a European professional labour market to emerge. The paper will conclude with propositions for a future research agenda on emerging professional labour markets in Europe.