Europe and the EU

Policy briefs

EU labour mobility: an EU that protects?

01 Aug 2017 - 09:30
Source: Victoria Pickering/flickr
The responsibilities to provide perspective for losers

Following the victory of Trump, the Brexit referendum and the election of Macron, calls for forms of protectionism and an ‘EU that protects’ have received more attention. These calls have, among others, led to proposals that touches upon EU mobility. This Policy Brief weighs the economic and the political dilemmas. The core question is: should the European rules on mobility be modified to address existing concerns?

Mobility creates political dilemmas not only for receiving countries but also for sending countries. Worries exist in receiving countries over ‘social dumping’, loss of national jobs and burdens on public services, while sending countries are concerned about exploitation of EU workers, brain drains and domestic competitiveness.

The trends show that concerns in receiving countries are largely unfounded, yet social dumping occurs under the freedom of services and brain drain is an issue in several sending countries. While labour mobility is  -  inevitably  - a topic that produces losers of change, care should be taken where the flexibility of mobility is at stake; as all forms of mobility of labour and services create opportunities, reduce costs and are on the whole beneficial for the European economy.

Contrary to calls for protective measures which could hinder competitiveness and convergence, it is primarily up to the national governments to have effective and flexible welfare states to deal with its winners and losers of change. Provided that member states take more assertive (legal) action, several existing concerns could be addressed within current EU legislation and practices as well. Nonetheless, emergency breaks for receiving countries in relation to overburden, and supplementary EU investment in sending countries in relation to brain drain, could be considered.