Coordinated social security systems will not necessarily make the movement of workers in the EU any easier

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Social Security
Social security

The new Commission proposal seeks to provide clarity and assurances with regard to benefits to which workers working abroad are entitled, but some of the issues have not been adequately addressed, the EESC says.

The European Comission's proposed new rules for the coordination of social security systems should be aimed at facilitating, rather than restricting, the movement of workers and jobseekers in the EU, as the free movemet of workers remains one of the key pillars of the internal market, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) said in an opinion adopted at its plenary session in July.

The EESC found that the proposed new rules "did not address the existing shortcomings of a coordinated social security system that was originally designed for Member States with relatively similar levels of purchasing power parities and social security systems", especially after the enlargements and given the most recent developments in the EU labour market.

"The EU has proposed new rules by which it will try and facilitate the process of determining the obligations and rights of those who live and work or are looking for employment abroad in another Member State. In its proposal for a new regulation on the coordination of social security systems, the Commission has tried to provide fair and enforceable rules to facilitiate labour mobility", rapporteur Philip Von Brockdorff said at the EESC plenary."However, these new rules should lead to a better balance between the countries from which most workers leave and those countries which receive the greatest amount of EU workers," added he, saying that the Commission proposal should have been "more courageous in order to facilitate worker mobility in the EU".

The main challenging changes cover unemployment benefits for those who work in another Member State, social security coordination for posted workers and access of economically inactive citizens to social benefits.

According to the new rules, EU mobile workers must work at least three months in the host country before they can qualify for unemployment benefits (whereas the current rules grant that right after having worked for one day). The EESC criticised this proposal warning that this will delay the beginning of the "aggregation of periods" giving the right to benefits and may thus impact negatively the motivation for mobility.  

It also questioned the usefulness of the proposal to extend the period for "exporting" unemployment benefits from the current 3 to at least 6 months, as this measure alone would not provide employment opportunities for jobseekers.

The Committee called for a stronger commitment on the part of Member States to facilitating the option of allowing mobile citizens who are economically inactive to contribute to a scheme for health sickness coverage in the host Member State, and thus comply with the conditions set out in the Free Movement Directive.

In 2015, around 11.3 million citizens of working age (20-64) were living in another EU country, of whom 8.5 million were employed or looking for a job. There were 1.3 million cross-border workers in the EU, whereas the number of posted workers stood at 1.92 million.

For the EESC, an especially worrisome issue  is the wide gap in the quality of welfare systems in different EU countries, where the best systems help reduce the risk of poverty by 60% and the least efficient by less than 15%, with the EU average at 35%.

More effective measures are therefore required to bring about convergence in regard to the duration of employment benefits, the amount of benefits received, and the period of aggregation for the activation of unemployment benefits.

Finally, the EESC stressed that common European values and economic development require that a minimum income, basic health care, the provision of suitable social services and social participation are safeguarded in every Member State. It is therefore all the more important for the EU Member States to agree on principles for effective and reliable social security systems, to help boost solidarity and reduce macro-economic imbalances between Member States.

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