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Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh
10th June 2013 - Working in Europe

Sometimes we get a very confused image of who’s actually employed in Europe and where they come from. We seem to lose sight of the great reality that lies at the very centre of the idea of a European community – the concept that everyone should have the freedom to be educated, to live and to work in a country that shares the same value system and sense of fairness and equality. It is no different from the right of American citizens to live and work in different States.

That ideal is vital because it virtually eliminates the notion of countries fighting with one another. That is why, post-World War Two, the concept of a united Europe came about in the first place. European countries – and the US of course – had been engaged in two relentless world wars that had obliterated millions. No one wanted to risk that again.

The kind of aggression that Hitler and the Nazis stood for, the horrors of the Final Solution and the destruction of cities, families and entire infrastructures, drove the recognition that something had to be done to make sure it could never happen again. The Versailles Treaty of World War One had so diminished German pride that the humiliation, in the view of some analysts at least, led directly to the Second World War. That couldn’t be repeated. Something more constructive had to be worked out.

The thinking behind what was initially the European Common Market was that if you put in place a common interest; if the people of different nations can share the same objectives, then the outcomes must be of benefit to all. Cooperation is better than conflict.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Give people the opportunity to live, get educated, work, bring up their families in other European countries and they will be hugely enriched by the experience. They will find familiar but different cultural ideas, religious convictions, ideas about careers and politics, new languages and the opportunity to engage from within different nation communities.

It’s a great way to build your knowledge and understanding, to be able to share your own ideas with others of similar or totally different views, to develop a much more international or global outlook on the world.

We see people from across Europe living and working in Scotland and it is fantastic that we have them here, contributing their own experiences and drawing from ours. No single country can operate in isolation, perhaps especially the smaller ones, and it is vital that we engage with others wherever we have the chance.

So what is the make-up the people who are employed across the European countries? The European Union Labour Force Survey for 2012 came out a few days ago. Its findings are interesting and informative:

·        15.2 million foreign citizens worked within the 27 EU countries.

·        This is 7 per cent of the total employed workforce across the member countries.

·        6.6 million were citizens of another EU member state.

·        8.6 million were from a country outside the EU.

·        At 67.7 per cent, the employment rate for EU nationals from other countries was slightly higher than national employment at 64.6 per cent.

·        216 million people were employed in the EU.

·        15.2 per cent of all employed persons were self-employed.

We ought to be encouraging more of our young people to go to other European countries to study; we need to help more of our own citizens to seek out interesting jobs and careers in other EU countries.

Many Scots already live, or have lived, in countries such as France, Germany and Spain and many more will, I hope, grab the chance to do so before David Cameron manages to wrest the UK out of Europe.

Bring those skills and experiences back home to Scotland and you will enrich your own country as well as yourselves. Let’s get more European!

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