Employment in cross-border territories: an opportunity

The rise in the number of cross-border workers over decades demonstrates that seeking employment in a neighbouring country remains an attractive option. Several factors or motivations can be distinguished, mainly:
- Differences in economic development on both sides of the border (unemployment and labour requirement)
- The wage differential (for example the big gap between French, Swiss and Luxembourg salaries explains much of the movement towards these territories)
- Advantages linked to social welfare benefits
- Fiscal differentials
- The cost of land and housing
- Historical factors, cultural factors (including common language or not) and family reasons.

Living in a cross-border territory represents both an opportunity for jobseekers who can respond to offers from the neighbouring state without moving, and for employers in need of labour who can call on workers on the other side of the border.
Commuting to and from work on both sides of the border also plays an important role in local economies, by way of the activities they stimulate and the income they generate (the ‘in-place’ or ‘presential’ economy).
It is also important to consider the potential of each territory, and the barriers created by their deficiencies: the development of transport infrastructure, the relevance of information and advisory services, as well as the fiscal agreements and legal convergence between countries, knowledge of the neighbouring country’s language, etc.
Lastly, historical and cultural factors must not be overlooked: psychological barriers such as being unaccustomed to mobility within the family and having a low tendency to travel outside of one’s habitual environment (for example in the case of young people) are disincentives to the pursuit of opportunities on the other side of the border.

A socio-economic typology of border regions in the European Union was carried out by the CGET and UMS RIATE in 2016 . This allowed the measurement of the amplitude of the differentials driving movements of cross-border workers – economic, demographic and social differences. The study analyses European borders according to these criteria, and produces a typology of these regions, notably based on the opposition between regions with high GDP and those where it is lower. In that respect, the CGET’s 2017 study  shows that flows of cross-border workers in border areas of Western Europe are larger than those of Eastern Europe, due to their different socio-economic characteristics and notably their economic attractiveness.

Furthermore, according to the same CGET study, the profiles of French border workers also vary according to their destination. For example, cross-border workers are generally younger than the French active population as a whole, except for those working in Germany. Their socio-professional categories also differ, with a greater number of blue-collar workers working in Germany and Belgium, and more white-collar workers working in Switzerland and Monaco.