Making free movement fairer for all

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Labour mobility is a founding principle of the EU and one of the achievements most highly valued by European citizens. It must remain a cornerstone of Europe's internal market, says the EESC in its opinion adopted at the plenary session this week.

Labour mobility can help to bring employment opportunities and prosperity to European citizens and companies. It means better use of skills and knowledge, boosting innovation and growth, and creating more culturally diverse societies.

In 2014, there were some 15 million mobile workers in the EU, compared with just fewer than 12 million in 2006. In the same year, there were 8.3 million mobile workers of working age living and working in another Member State, equivalent to 3.4% of the entire workforce, in addition to the 1.6 million cross-border workers.

"To be successful, free movement must be fair for all. The rules must guarantee equal treatment and non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality", said Mrs González de Txabarri Etxani, rapporteur on the issue. "Unfair employment practices are exploiting workers and creating 'social dumping', while some Member States want to deny social benefits to mobile workers. On the other hand, the current climate due to the migration crisis is not favourable to labour mobility. Europe must show strength and determination in defending its principles and help mobile workers now more than ever".

The opinion highlights concrete solutions such as:

  • Labour inspection is required to play a key role in guaranteeing fair mobility. For this to be possible, the EESC calls on the Member States to provide sufficient competencies, staff and resources for national inspectorates and labour-market monitoring authorities, while supporting the improvement of European cross-border labour-market inspection tools including improvement in cross-border enforcement of penalties.
  • National social security systems need to be better coordinated, ensuring that mobile workers have access to the support they need without sacrificing their rights when they move for work. Here too, the EESC says the principle of equal treatment must apply not only when workers take up employment in another EU state, but also when they return to their home country.
  • Specific needs of posted workers need to be better tackled. The EESC will soon put forward detailed recommendations in response to the European Commission’s plan to revise the controversial Posting of Workers Directive. Since labour mobility impacts on workers and businesses alike, the EESC urges the Commission to consult social partners – trade unions and employers – at all levels, before taking any action.

For more information, please contact:

Caroline ALIBERT-DEPREZ, EESC Press Unit

E-mail: press(at)

 Tel: + 32 2 546 9406 / +32 475 75 32 02


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