Fix EURES

EURES is the European job mobility portal that connects employers and job seekers. It is constantly advertised (in online publications) as the go-to place for people looking for a job. The database has almost two million jobs now, waiting to be found. Yet, the prevailing tone that I hear is that the rising number of unemployed people are almost guilty for not using the system.

In the last 15 years or so I have seen many websites. Some have changed, others disappeared; some were filled with marketing messages and buttons, others packed plenty of modern ads in a sidebar. Some “keyword” websites were visited more often than others who actually offered something valuable. Relatively small websites exceeded their bandwidth capacity due to spikes in traffic, yet they could deliver an explanatory message why this happens; others weighted more than 20MB, but still worked as expected, even when slow. But I haven’t seen anything like EURES. Whenever I want to check something on it, I fear what could happen this time.

I first registered on EURES a couple of years ago, but since then I have used the site only occasionally. Before I could register, the site was inaccessible to me. Other sites were perfectly loading, only EURES was loading forever for no obvious reason and without any feedback. I tried to change the browser, the time of access, even the day of access, but all of these led to the same result. Sometimes I saw an image or two appearing slowly, as if my connection speed was limited at 1KB/s. It could have been a problem only in my own country. I don’t know.

After my registration I’ve read only a couple of job ads. I remember that one of them basically stated: “We use this system here, which was built using these specific technologies and we look for someone to fit”. They looked for an operator of a system and not for a human being capable of finding its own way by choosing the best tools to accomplish a goal (that wasn’t even defined). To paraphrase Michael Porter: “It’s not the number of jobs that matters, but their quality.” With such ads, it’s not surprising that more and more employers will have trouble finding people.

Two days ago I received an unexpected email from EURES. It stated that I haven’t visited the site in the last two years and due to migration, I need to change my data if I want my account to be preserved. Or it will be automatically deleted by a certain (approaching) date. I thought that it would be nice to keep my account just in case. So I tried to log in, but my data was invalid, which wasn’t surprising considering when I was there for the last time. So I requested a new password and tried to log in again. Even with the new password, this was impossible. Next, I thought that something with my username must be wrong, despite receiving all the emails. So this time I selected the radio button “send username” instead of “send password”. But the system informed me that sending the username will be impossible in the next 24 hours, because I have already requested my password. This practically made it unusable for me again. So I thought: “Maybe you’ll do yourself a favor by having your account deleted.”

This system has an almost socialistic interface, as if being a place where many people go, but noone returns. It’s a place braided by rules, conventions and bureaucratic requirements. “Click here to go there”—a channel for obedient movement in the desired direction. It’s not friendly to newcomers and it has a rather corporate feel, which doesn’t correspond well to one open Europe, where more mobility should be encouraged. Throwing many job descriptions in a soulless container and then filtering them isn’t enough to stimulate already discouraged people to look through the offers. Lack of mutual trust will leave even the best offers unconsidered. This is why the real problem of the system may be with the thinking that goes behind it.

If millions of people are looking for jobs now and they get a bad experience, how will this affect the European economy? Will this create more believers or more skeptics? We should remind ourselves that the EU starts from its representative institutions and initiatives, which is why we can’t afford to leave them detached from the real individual needs. Or we all will have to pay a high price.

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