Given the large differences in youth unemployment rates across Europe, one would expect young people to migrate from countries with high unemployment rates to those with better job prospects. But in reality, migration across European countries is still much lower than across the United States. One of the key reasons is the language barrier within the EU, which could be overcome with better language education, as a new IZA discussion paper shows.
In the paper, Ainhoa Aparicio Fenoll and Zoë Kuehn use historical data on starting ages for foreign language studies in EU countries and find that having learned the language of a country during compulsory education increases the likelihood to migrate to that country almost fivefold. This suggests that improving foreign language teaching at school can facilitate labor movement within EU countries. The authors thus conclude that educational reforms should play a substantial role in EU cohesion policy.