Why be interested in cross-border mobility in relation to training and employment?

Cross-border mobility in relation to training and employment

August 2020

Conseil économique, social et environnemental régional (CESER)

Through the contacts they establish day after day on both sides of the borders, the border territories are today real outposts of community integration prefiguring the Europe of tomorrow. New Aquitaine has a border with the Spanish Basque region. In this context, CESER Nouvelle-Aquitaine has examined the relationships between cross-border mobility, employment and training. This study contributes to the reflection on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals established by the United Nations:

  • Good health and well-being

  • Quality education

  • Gender equality

  • Clean and affordable energy

  • Decent work and economic growth

  • Reduced inequalities

  • Measures to combat climate change

To download : ceser_rapport_mobilite_1.pdf (600 KiB)

Several authors have shown the positive effects of studying and having work experience abroad. International mobility is conducive to the development, integration, employability and intercultural openness of individuals. It can also be a source of innovation. Cooperation in the field of mobility linked to training and employment can help the partners to provide appropriate responses to the challenges posed by the necessary environmental, social and economic transitions.

For the CESER, the interest in the topic of cross-border mobility in connection with training and employment arose in the context of exchanges with the Economic and Social Council of the Spanish Basque Country, in response to a common observation: « territorial continuity and geographical proximity between the New Aquitaine region and its Spanish counterpart of Euskadi are not self-evident when the topic of exchanges of young people in training and professional integration is addressed. However, the development and supervision of cross-border exchanges of young people at all levels of training could make it possible to diversify not only employment opportunities, but also training opportunities enabling young people and adults to benefit from all the assets available on the regional territory. These exchanges would also make it possible to develop cross-border territorial and cultural cohesion » 1 .

Since the end of 2018, our work has been organised around a compilation of experiences centred on the cross-border area on both sides of the Bidasoa river. As the information gathered during the hearings and meetings with the various actors in the territory sharpened our understanding of the subject and its issues, this study saw its thematic and geographical scope widen.

This study benefited from joint work with Commission 1 « Education, Training and Employment » of the CESER, around the notion of « education for choice ». This notion raises the question of the freedom of individuals in the construction of their life course. This inter-commission work highlighted the importance of an approach that takes into account the needs of all the actors in the territories concerned, particularly young people.

This is how the study project came into being in September 2019, and its objective became clearer: to carry out a reflection aimed at enriching the cooperation strategy of the entire New Aquitaine territory in terms of cross-border mobility in connection with training and employment in the New Aquitaine - Euskadi - Navarre Euroregion (NAEN Euroregion).

To begin this reflection, we will present some characteristics of cross-border mobility in relation to training and cross-border employment, specific to the Euroregion, as well as their political and regulatory framework.

Cross-border mobility in relation to training

Transnational mobility for learning purposes is associated with future mobility, higher earnings and lower risk of unemployment, as multilingualism improves the employment prospects of the individuals concerned 2 .

Present and future career paths are enriched by the contributions of a working out of the postures, projections and resources of an individual navigating in a different socio-cultural and geographical environment. The confrontation with otherness enables the acquisition of new knowledge and the taking of a step back from the knowledge already acquired. The development of new skills and competences is strongly stimulated by putting them into perspective. The new experiences also help to consolidate citizenship since they can foster autonomy, interculturality, the development of a cooperative spirit, openness to the world, adaptation to change, self-esteem, etc., echoing the objectives of other areas of the Region’s international policy, such as education for citizenship and international solidarity (ECSI) 3.

However, our work has enabled us to observe that all too often cross-border mobility in connection with training and employment is associated above all with the individual mobility of workers in a border area. In reality, it takes various forms: it can be individual but also collective or institutional. It can be constant, such as the mobility of cross-border workers, but it can also be limited to specific, short or long periods. It includes all cross-border stays, such as exchanges of pupils and teaching staff, periods of schooling abroad, observation periods, information visits in a professional environment, work placements or training periods in a professional environment, or in the context of social and/or voluntary involvement, etc.

Progress has been made in exchanges and mobility at higher level, but mobility in the context of vocational training remains more limited. According to INSEE, in New Aquitaine, the rate of students who have obtained the baccalaureate and are pursuing higher education is lower than the national average (73.6% compared to 79.4%). One of the factors that may explain this difference is the large proportion of graduates from the vocational route. The latter leads more directly to integration into working life and is less open to higher education than elsewhere 4.

Thus, in relation to all the graduates of the 2015 session, there are proportionately more holders of a vocational baccalaureate (30.3%) in New Aquitaine than in France as a whole (28.5%) and they are much less likely to go on to higher education (80% of holders of a general or technological baccalaureate go on to higher education, as opposed to barely 37% of graduates of a vocational baccalaureate) 5 .

For young people in New France, mobility is at the heart of their strategies for finding a job or continuing their studies. Many young people leave the family home. A large proportion of them move to an area with a wealth of training opportunities, while others move closer to an employment centre. In 2015, around 55% of baccalaureate holders pursuing higher education moved away. Others opted for a daily commute. Logically, the greater the distance between home at the time of the baccalaureate and the place of higher education, the greater the propensity to move 6.

But the opportunities for mobility are not the same for all young people. While technological and vocational orientations - from high school onwards - predominate for young people from the ‘disadvantaged’ class, and generally have an impact on the rest of their studies, the choice of post-baccalaureate pathway may also depend on housing and transport costs. For example, the sections de techniciens supérieurs (STS), which are available in many areas, are chosen more often by baccalaureate holders from the ‘disadvantaged’ category. Furthermore, the more limited the range of courses on offer in their area of residence, the more likely it is that students with the baccalaureate will choose STS: up to 40% of them in areas with little diversity compared with 34% in areas with a full range of courses. In 2015, 42% of students moved to join a higher education area, one third of them outside the region. Among them, those from areas combining remoteness and limited training offer are the most concerned 7 .

In a recent report on lifelong guidance in New Aquitaine, the CESER reminds us that « social determinants remain real obstacles to lifelong guidance, as they can prevent or prevent access to certain professions or even certain training courses. The fight against discrimination and the « reduction of obstacles » must urgently be at the heart of public policies on lifelong guidance. As far as our greater region is concerned, the issue of mobility must also be at the heart of all our reflections on training so that each inhabitant of the territory has the same chances of success and of realising his or her individual project » 8 .

It is not impossible that the same difficulties linked to financial and human capital are an obstacle to cross-border and international mobility for young people from disadvantaged classes.

Indeed, there has been a positive development in recent years. More and more French students are going to study abroad, mainly in French-speaking or border countries. Between 2008 and 2017, the number of students enrolled in a French higher education institution in European and international Erasmus + mobility (study mobility and work placement mobility) increased by 66.1%. The main reason for this increase in mobility is the significant growth in work placement mobility (+253% in 10 years). The latter now represents 35.5% of mobility, i.e. 6.5 points more than the European average. Over the same period, study mobility has increased by 28.7% 9.

However, for certain categories, it is more difficult to set up a mobility project. Indeed, gender, as well as origin, disability and sexual orientation, to name but a few of the criteria prioritised by the Region in its « Achieving Equality » Action Plan, have consequences on the educational pathway, on the professional integration of job applicants and therefore on the opportunities for international mobility.

For example: women have a higher schooling rate than men 10, a study conducted by Campus France emphasises that female students are still less mobile than their male counterparts 11. Although there are more of them, they are just as attracted by a study period abroad and even more convinced of the benefits to be expected, they nevertheless benefit less frequently from the experience of mobility. This difficulty can be explained by the fact that they are still in the minority in schools, particularly engineering schools, which include and most often impose mobility in their curriculum 12. For the much more numerous women who attend universities and are open to a mobility project, the obstacles are often financial but sometimes psychological. Many of them admit to having fears about the smooth running of the stay and doubts about their supposed ability to follow courses in another language 13 .

With regard to the other three criteria, it is important to emphasise the lack of statistical knowledge, including on the effects of discrimination on mobility in relation to training and employment. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that the specific stereotypes linked to origin, disability and sexual orientation that condition and hinder access to training also have an impact on mobility opportunities 14. Moreover, persistent inequalities in access to schooling lead to limited and constrained educational pathways. These pathways are imposed by default due to problems of accessibility, self-censorship or unchosen orientations linked to prejudices about the supposed chances of academic success.

Moreover, social and economic vulnerability is often amplified by multiple discrimination affecting people whose characteristics expose them to discrimination combining several criteria. Thus, the Defender of Rights has taken up this issue in order to verify the observation that disabled women are under-represented in employment 15.

Cross-border employment

Within Europe, two distinct phenomena have facilitated the movement of people. On the one hand, the globalised economy and its demands for international flows and on the other hand, the birth of the Schengen area creating a favourable political context for the multiplication of employment opportunities abroad in Europe. Indeed, within the European Union, 2 million people work at least once a week in another country. This figure is rising sharply and has tripled since 1999. For France, INSEE estimates the number of cross-border workers at over 363,000. Men account for the lion’s share of cross-border workers compared with women in Germany (65%), Belgium (67%) and Luxembourg (61%) 16 .

Between France and Spain, the Pyrenees constitute a natural barrier with few crossing points, which partly explains the more limited exchanges: cross-border work to Spain concerns only 5,000 inhabitants of New Aquitaine or Occitania, two thirds of whom live in Hendaye. A specificity of the phenomenon in New Aquitaine: 70% of cross-border workers residing in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques are of Spanish nationality, whereas in the other cross-border territories, they are mostly of French nationality 17.

At the beginning of the 2010s, the recovery of the Spanish economy, the dynamism of the Neo-Atlantic economy and the demographic evolution gave hope for a positive change in employment on the Franco-Spanish border. This is the gamble of the New Aquitaine - Euskadi - Navarre Euroregion, which has identified the development of a Euroregional employment area as one of the priorities of its 2014-2020 Strategic Plan. The aim is to increase cross-border mobility and, in the long term, to ensure that the population of the Euroregion sees the cross-border territory as an area in which they can find work opportunities adapted to their characteristics and expectations, in order to increase their employability and promote Euroregional integration 18. The economic complementarities and the important trade flows between the three regions as well as the growing need for labour are highlighted.

The reality of other cross-border employment areas reminds us that opportunities for cross-border work respond to a multi-causal dynamic. Thus, in the cross-border territories, between 2010 and 2015, employment evolved in a very contrasting way. In 2015, the number of cross-border workers doubled towards Luxembourg (+4.7% per year), while the number of workers increased more modestly towards Switzerland (+0.9% per year) and decreased significantly towards Germany (-1.5% per year). In these territories, between 2010 and 2015, employment evolved according to various factors such as 19 :

1) The language barrier is often cited as an obstacle to cross-border employment. Belgium attracts far fewer cross-border workers, while the language barrier does not arise, despite a common French-speaking area and while unemployment is lower in Belgium than in the Grand Est region 21.

2) While employment growth is considered to be a pull factor, the percentage of commuters living in France and working in Germany is decreasing (- 0.9% per year), especially in industry (- 1.9%), despite an increase in employment of 0.8% per year between 2010 and 2015 near the borders and despite an increase in employment in industry, is increasing by 0.5% per year, in contrast to that of nearby French employment areas (- 1.5%). One possible explanation is that young French workers with a good command of German are more qualified than their elders and may prefer Switzerland and Luxembourg, which offer more management jobs and better salaries than Germany 22.

The European Commission emphasises the growth potential of border regions and identifies in its work the support of cross-border employment as one of the economically promising areas 23. It is therefore quite natural that the creation of an employment area is considered as a strengthening of the complementarity between cross-border territories favouring an improvement of their competitiveness. Cross-border employment is supposed to generate positive spin-offs for the territories. However, while one of the challenges of the development of cross-border work concerns the spin-offs in terms of induced jobs, recent analyses show that cross-border work does not always generate job creation on the French side 24.

In New Aquitaine, with an annual increase in population of 1.1% and employment of 0.7% between 2010 and 2015, the Bayonne employment zone is the only one to benefit from a positive employment-population dynamic, and this is not necessarily linked to its border position 25.

It therefore seems important to go beyond the postulate that the economic differential and demographic evolution on either side of a border are the only factors that can trigger the flow of people. The development of a cross-border employment and living area should be based on regional complementarities, not only economic but also social and cultural. In order to benefit from the development of cross-border regions, a territorial approach to cross-border employment must also take account of the economic and social-environmental issues of these territories and the practices of the actors who shape them. More recently, the COVID-19 crisis has shown the importance of social protection and its link with issues of decent working conditions, both of which are at the heart of the resilience of territories, whereas they have been perceived until now as obstacles to the creation of a cross-border labour market.

The non-existence of a genuine Euroregional labour pool and the characteristics of cross-border workers (for the most part Spaniards working in Spain and living in New Aquitaine to take advantage of residential facilities) lead to questioning the relevance of a cooperation strategy focused on cross-border employment. Cooperation on training linked to employment therefore appears to be a more appropriate entry point for promoting cross-border dynamics in this field. Moreover, the analysis of recurrent movements between the two sides of the border partly shows that cross-border flows in the region are caused by multiple motives (beyond the sole professional sphere), and that the crossing of the border is the result of both regional and local dynamics 26.

The political framework

Within the framework of decentralisation, the Regions have seen their scope of competences extended in the field of vocational training for young people and adults. The Regional Councils decide on training policies in the regions according to local economic and social priorities.

The Regional Plan Contract for the Development of Vocational Training and Guidance (CPRDFOP), a structuring scheme for regional policies, is a strategic framework document for the period between 2018 and 2022, concerning the steering of guidance/training policies for all partners involved. The CPRDFOP underpins the development strategy for training and guidance in New Aquitaine around four priorities 27 :

Encouraging international mobility in apprenticeships is identified as one of the services aimed at facilitating the matching of supply and demand within the framework of the construction and deployment of a regional skills development system. The CPRDFOP also encourages experimentation and innovation to promote international mobility.

In its International Mobility Intervention Rules, New Aquitaine commits to an educational perspective focused on equal opportunities and the development of each individual, the removal of obstacles that are particularly opposed to the most disadvantaged, and the compensation of inequalities of all kinds. The Region notes that there are many international mobility schemes in France and in New Aquitaine, and their effectiveness is recognised. On the other hand, they remain insufficiently visible and coordinated on the one hand, and on the other hand, they do not benefit the least qualified young people. The regulation recalls that the national experiments carried out within the framework of the Fonds d’Expérimentation pour la Jeunesse (FEJ) have highlighted the financial and linguistic obstacles, as well as the influence of family and friends on certain young people. Above all, they have shown that it is the combination of these different factors that makes mobility difficult for some young people. The New Aquitaine region therefore supports the international mobility of young people in training, whether they are high school students, apprentices, students, vocational training trainees or learners in the health and social sector. In order to enable the departure of a maximum number of beneficiaries, it applies for European funding to supplement regional funding where possible (Erasmus+). In addition, support is offered to CFAs that do not have the engineering capacity to seek European funding 28.

The importance of initial and continuing training, qualification and skills development throughout the New Aquitaine region is recognised by the Regional Plan for the Development, Sustainability and Equality of Territories (SRADDET) of New Aquitaine (strategic objective OS 1. 3), as well as the need to open up the New Aquitaine region to its neighbours, Europe and the world by strengthening cooperation with neighbouring regions and European territories, particularly, but not exclusively, within the framework of the New Aquitaine - Euskadi - Navarre Euroregion, in order to provide the region with attractive territories that create activities and jobs (strategic objective 1.5).

Lifelong learning is a priority axis of the 2014-2020 European programmes for which the New Aquitaine region has the management authority. Thus, the Aquitaine ESF-ERDF Operational Programme (OP) emphasises that the development of international mobility will be sought in order to increase the quality and efficiency of the Aquitaine guidance and training system. Indeed, the reinforcement of acquired skills, the practice of a foreign language, the discovery of a company in another European country contribute to a better social and professional integration, and to a greater functional and geographical adaptability. International mobility should be encouraged in order to promote the professional integration of people who are far from employment in the same way as language learning: a person who has benefited from an internship or training abroad has a 20% greater chance of finding a job 29.

One of the lines of action of the New Aquitaine - Basque Country - Navarre Euroregion Strategic Plan is to promote the configuration of an integrated Euroregional employment area, so that the active population of the Euroregion acquires greater cross-border mobility than currently exists. The long-term objective is to ensure that the population sees the cross-border territory as an area in which they can find work opportunities adapted to their characteristics and expectations, so that their employability increases and Euroregional integration is promoted. The EMPLEO project highlights the importance of collaboration between the public employment services of the three regions that make up the Euroregion (Pôle Emploi, Lanbide and the Navarra-Lan Sare Employment Service), in order to create a shared supply and demand for work among the three Euroregional public employment services and to promote Euroregional professional mobility.

At the European level, the Strategic Framework for Cooperation in Education and Training « Education and Training 2020 » sets as one of its reference objectives 30 :

  • 1 Cahier des charges du recueil d’expériences sur la mobilité transfrontalière en lien avec la formation et l’emploi

  • 2 Commission européenne, 2019, Rapport de suivi de l’éducation et de la formation France.

  • 3 So ECSI in www.socooperation.org/ecsi consulté en janvier 2020.

  • 4 Ferret, Jean-Pierre et Joubert, Marc., 2018, « Déménager ou pas : une alternative pour la poursuite d’études supérieures » – INSEE : Analyses Nouvelle-Aquitaine, 22 juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3561268#titre-bloc-5 consulté en mars 2020.

  • 5 Idem.

  • 6 Idem.

  • 7 Idem.

  • 8 CESER Nouvelle-Aquitaine, juin 2020, L’orientation tout au long de la vie en Nouvelle-Aquitaine.

  • 9 Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation, 2019, État de l’Enseignement supérieur, de la Recherche et de l’Innovation en France n° 13.

  • 10 Selon l’INSEE, en Nouvelle-Aquitaine, entre 18 et 24 ans, elles sont 53,5 % à être scolarisées contre 47,7 % des hommes et 7,8 % contre 7,2 % entre 25 et 29 ans. Source : INSEE, 2020, Chiffres détaillés : Dossier complet Nouvelle-Aquitaine, avril. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/2011101?geo=REG-75#chiffre-cle-4

  • 11 Campus France, 2016, Les notes de Campus France n° 52 : Le genre et la mobilité étudiante internationale, Septembre. ressources.campusfrance.org/publications/notes/fr/note_52_fr.pdf

  • 12 Ce constat de Campus France s’applique à l’ensemble des écoles ingénieurs dans sa globalité et ne contredit pas le fait que, dans certaines de ces écoles, les filles soient bien représentées.

  • 13 Campus France, 2016, Les notes de Campus France n° 52 : Le genre et la mobilité étudiante internationale, Septembre. ressources.campusfrance.org/publications/notes/fr/note_52_fr.pdf

  • 14 En effet, malgré les évolutions récentes, le niveau général de qualification de la population reconnue handicapée demeure faible et constitue un obstacle important à l’accès à l’emploi et l’évolution de carrière (Défenseur des droits, 2016, « L’emploi des femmes en situation de handicap. Analyse exploratoire sur les discriminations multiples). Seulement 25 % des personnes reconnues handicapées ont le bac, un brevet professionnel ou plus, contre 49 % de la population totale (DARES Analyse, Emploi et chômage des personnes handicapées, Synthèse. Stat n°17, 2015). Selon le défenseur des Droits, 1 personne sur 3 considère que le fait de révéler son homosexualité à son entourage professionnel peut avoir un impact négatif sur la carrière et 44 % des personnes transidentitaires déclarent avoir été discriminées dans la recherche d’un emploi (Défenseur des droits, 2017, Agir contre les discriminations liées à l’orientation sexuelle et à l’identité de genre dans l’emploi, mai). Le résultat de l’appel à témoignages mené par le Défenseur des droits en 2016 sur les discriminations liées aux origines dans l’accès à l’emploi illustre la diversité des difficultés rencontrées par les personnes d’origine étrangère et leurs conséquences sur les parcours professionnels et personnels : pour plus de 60 % des répondants, les discriminations liées aux origines lors des recherches de stage ou d’emploi se produisent « souvent » ou « très souvent » (Défenseur des droits, 2016, Résultat de l’appel à témoignages Accès à l’emploi et discriminations liées aux origines, septembre).

  • 15 Défenseur des droits, 2016, « L’emploi des femmes en situation de handicap. Analyse exploratoire sur les discriminations multiples »

  • 16 INSEE, 2019, Première : Forte croissance du nombre de travailleurs frontaliers vers la Suisse et le Luxembourg, Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4164642

  • 17 INSEE, 2018, Flash Nouvelle-Aquitaine, n° 38 : Habiter à Hendaye et travailler en Espagne, juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/3562948

  • 18 GECT NAEN, 2018, EMPLEO : Diagnostic sur l’Emploi Transfrontalier au sein de l’Eurorégion Nouvelle-Aquitaine – Euskadi – Navarre.

  • 19 INSEE, 2019, Analyse Grand Est : Depuis 1999, le nombre de frontaliers à destination du Luxembourg a doublé, n° 97. Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4171650#figure1

  • 20 NSEE, 2019, Première : Forte croissance du nombre de travailleurs frontaliers vers la Suisse et le Luxembourg, Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4164642

  • 21 INSEE, 2019, Analyse Grand Est : Depuis 1999, le nombre de frontaliers à destination du Luxembourg a doublé, n° 97. Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4171650#figure1 et Insee, 2020, Analyses Haut-de-France : une baisse des actifs plus marquée en Belgique d’ici à 2030.

  • 22 INSEE, 2019, Analyse Grand Est : Depuis 1999, le nombre de frontaliers à destination du Luxembourg a doublé, n° 97. Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4171650#figure1

  • 23 Communication de la Commission au Conseil et au Parlement européen : « Stimuler la croissance et la cohésion des régions frontalières de l’Union européenne », septembre 2017.

  • 24 INSEE, 2019, Analyse Grand Est : Depuis 1999, le nombre de frontaliers à destination du Luxembourg a doublé, n° 97. Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4171650#figure1

  • 25 INSEE, 2019, Première : Forte croissance du nombre de travailleurs frontaliers vers la Suisse et le Luxembourg, Juin. www.insee.fr/fr/statistiques/4164642

  • 26 Eurorégion Nouvelle-Aquitaine – Euskadi – Navarre, 2014, TRANSFERMUGA. Le rôle structurant du rail dans la mobilité citoyenne transfrontalière. Diagnostic du territoire et de la mobilité 2012-2013.

  • 27 Priorités telles que présentées dans le document de synthèse du CPRDFOP Nouvelle-Aquitaine 2018-2020. www.cap-metiers.pro/TELECHARGEMENT/4456/_synthese_CPRDFOP_nouvelle_aquitaine__pdf_.pdf

  • 28 les-aides.nouvelle-aquitaine.fr/sites/default/files/2019-11/RI-MI_octobre_2019.pdf

  • 29 www.nouvelle-aquitaine.fr/sites/alpc/files/alpc_downloads_prg/field_alpc_downloads_prg_file/PO%20FEDER%20FSE%20Aquitaine%2020142020%20adopt%C3%A9.pdf

  • 30 ec.europa.eu/education/policies/european-policy-cooperation/et2020-framework_fr


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