The working title of my doctoral research is Career Learning, Interculturality and Identity Development in the Context of intra-EU Labour Migration (2014-2018). Professor Fred Dervin, who is in charge of multicultural education at the University of Helsinki, is supervising my PhD research.
In its policies and strategies the European Union has repeatedly addressed the importance of developing human capital, fostering educational attainment, and promoting international labour migration to increase its economic competitiveness in the global market. Intra-EU labour migration is said to balance out skills shortages and gaps between the EU28 Member States. With an increasing cross-border labour force mobility, employers across Europe can capitalize on the benefits that talented people from diverse cultural backgrounds make in working life.
Although career mobility across Europe “in the spirit of free movement of people” is regarded as a tool for continued professional development, lifelong learning and acquisition of new competences, it still remains modest within the EU28 area. In 2015, some 11.3 million EU28 citizens were living in an EU country other than their country of citizenship, which corresponds to around 4 % of the total EU labour force. Of them around 8.5 million EU28 movers were either employed or looking for work. (European Commission 2016).
Making visible an individual’s International Mobility Capital, accrued through exposure to studying, training and working abroad, is vital for the mobile person as to present it as an integral element and valuable resource in his/her portfolio to employers.
Thus, this doctoral research examines the subjective dimensions of intra-EU labour migration, career learning and identity development among experts working for decentralized European Union agencies located in three different EU countries. Within this context, the research specifically aims at 1) studying the individual motives and aspirations for a career in the EU administration; 2) exploring obstacles and opportunities for professional development in an international and intercultural workplace, and 3) from multiple perspectives discussing aspects that influence personal and professional identifications while living and working abroad.
The qualitative data for this doctoral dissertation were gathered through thematic interviews held individually with a total of 20 interviewees. The respondents were staff members of the following three European Union agencies and represented 14 different nationalities: Cedefop (Greece), Eurofound (Ireland) and European Training Foundation (Italy).
This research problematizes the specific context of intra-EU labour migration by analyzing the experiences of individuals working for EU agencies and their motivations for an international career and professional development abroad, identifications in a multicultural environment and relations to interculturality within their mobility exposures. The results show that the participants seem to have been attracted by the intercultural aspects and career opportunities of the agencies. The evidence suggests that the more junior you are, the more you see potential for professional development at work, whereas for the more senior staff members this is less evident. The respondents appear to be very much aware of the complexities of identifying as a European, even though they feel it is an essential aspect of who they are and what they are supposed to represent in their professional roles. Based on the narrative biographies of the respondents, it is not possible to say for sure if the fact that the participants work for EU agencies leads them to such positions. Many respondents were multi-mobile and that some of them had moved for reasons other than working for an EU agency.
The final results (available in late 2018/early 2019) are expected to generate a valuable input to future academic research in the field and to contribute to the further development, formulation and implementation of European Union policies for international mobility for studying, training and working. This applies to the individual European Union member states and their national education and employment authorities, research bodies and other key players (e.g. social partners, higher education institutions).