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31 January 2017 – On the 13th of December 2016, the European Commission revealed the second part of its “Labour mobility” package. This is a proposal regulation which aims to coordinate social security systems. This proposal is a continuation of the same package of the 1996 directive review on the posting of workers. For the Commission, ensuring a fair coordination of the social security systems is essential to guarantee a free movement of people within the European Union (EU), one of the fundamental freedoms ensured by the EU treaties. There are currently 11.3 million of mobile citizens, i.e. working and living in an EU Member State but being a citizen of another one. AEDH has already highlighted the importance of ensuring to all workers equal access to social benefits.
The proposal focuses on four fields which need coordination: “economically inactive citizens’ access to social benefits, long-term care benefits, unemployment benefits and family benefits.” Real progress can be reported: the increase in the duration of the export of unemployment benefits of mobile citizens, from three to six months, even “up to the end of the period of that person’s entitlement to benefits” by decision of competent authority or services (article 64). It means that a job seeker can continue to get his/her benefits during six months even if s/he is looking for a job in another Member State. Moreover, a reinforced cooperation will be implemented in order to help the job seeker in his/her search.
Long-term care benefits are also introduced in the regulation proposal, issue in which AEDH is engaged, especially regarding informal carers.
The issue of frontier workers, i.e. people working in a neighbouring State of their country of residence, is also clarified: the Member State of the last employment has to pay unemployment benefits. Another important aspect to take note of: Marianne Thyssen, Commissioner in charge of Employment, Social affairs, skills and labour mobility, “rejected some richer countries’ calls for an EU law that would allow national governments to pay lower childcare benefits to parents who work in one country but support children who live in another EU state”, benefits which are less than 1% of family allowances.
However, this progress is not that clear-cut. Indeed, in order to receive unemployment benefits from the previous Member State where s/he worked, the frontier worker must have worked there for at least twelve months. If s/he did not, s/he will depend on her/his country of residence. This deadline seems to be very long. Moreover, the proposal confirms the length of the posting of workers, which is however not relevant, posting generally lasting six months.
Moreover, the Commission focuses on social benefit frauds, the revision seeking “to clarify the circumstances in which Member States can limit access to social benefits claimed by economically inactive EU mobile citizens.” In order to understand the issues covered in this problem, it is important to define the principle which governs benefits and what it refers to. Indeed, social benefits are based on the political principle of solidarity, workers paying a certain amount to an agency which is in charge of the redistribution to partially or fully cover unemployment or sickness period, pensions, pay family allowances, etc. Everyone contributes according to her/his means, some by contributions, others by direct (income) or indirect (for example added value tax, a consumption tax) taxes, and receives benefits depending on her/his needs. A public allocation policy is needed so everyone is not on her/his own. These benefits are distributed in different ways:
- Social security benefits, essentially contributory, that means people receive it in exchange of the payment of their contributions. It includes, for example, sick pay, pension, unemployment benefits, and family allowances;
- Social assistance payments, non-contributory, meaning there is no need of the payment of the contributions and “depend on people’s need”;
- Non-contributory special benefits in cash.
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