Eurodiaconia response on the proposal for the establishment of a European Labour Authority and the creation of a European Social Security Number
Brussels, 15 January 2018
On behalf of Eurodiaconia, I would like to share with you some reflections on the proposed European Social Security Number and on the European Labour Authority.
Eurodiaconia is a a dynamic, Europe-wide community of social and health care organisations founded in the Christian faith and working in the tradition of diaconal service, which are committed to promoting social justice. It represents more than 45 members working in over 32 countries, including churches, not-for-profit welfare organisations and NGOs.
Following the European Commission announcement of the establishment of a European Labour Authority (ELA) and the creation of a multi-purpose European Social Security Number (ESSN), and the consultation which have been recently held, Eurodiaconia would like to share some considerations, taking into account its members commitment to providing services to EU mobile citizens. Free movement regulation in the EU has produced a big number of EU citizens moving to another EU country searching for employment and with valuable skills to offer. Currently, about 3.7 percent of the total EU active population is working, seeking a job or being posted in another EU member state, representing a growing trend. However, entering the labour market and the subsequent social protection is often problematic for these EU citizens, due to barriers to registration existing in many Member States. The number of rules and regulations that a mobile EU citizen has to meet in order to register as a jobseeker can be extremely dissuasive in many EU countries. Moreover, legal and bureaucratic barriers and social security conditions often prevent these jobseekers from enjoying social benefits, either because they have been unemployed for a too long period, or because they could be legally eligible for social benefits but the local bureaucracy does not respect their entitlement. This situation ends up pushing those EU mobile citizens who are particularly vulnerable to social exclusion and destitution towards undeclared work. In many member states, EU citizens moving abroad to look for a job find themselves completely outside the social protection system, relying often on emergency health care, which is provided by humanitarian organisations. Conversely, public administrations tend to deny the access to basic services to those EU citizens who have not yet been integrated in the labour market, pushing these EU citizens into destitution, or enact “voluntary return” programmes for those people that authorities consider unlikely to find an employment.
Eurodiaconia welcomes all efforts aiming at improving coordination among European Social Security Systems. Both the ELA and the ESSN should be conceived as tools to facilitate EU mobile citizens’ registration to local social security, as well as ensure a better information on their rights to those EU citizens choosing to seek a job in another country. Better awareness of the accession to social security abroad could prevent a lot of people ending up in undeclared work and lack of social security, as pointed out by several Eurodiaconia’s members.
Following up on Eurodiaconia’s position on EU mobile citizens, we would like to point out a few major recommendations to further stimulate the debate about the establishment of the ELA and the ESSN:
- Security measures willing to identify social security frauds and irregularities should not result in a punitive system endangering EU internal migrants and putting them at risk of destitution or homelessness because of access barriers linked to nationality.
- The European Labour Authority (ELA) should ensure the setting up of services offering guidance and support to those EU mobile citizens lacking information about their social rights. This service, often provided solely by humanitarian organisations, represents a primary resource for EU mobile citizens who struggle to receive any kind of help in registering to the local employment agency and social security system.
- The establishment of ELA and the ESSN should be carried out with the goal of encouraging the extension of portability of social protection schemes between EU member states, as this measure could strongly mitigate social consequences of unemployment. ELA should ensure that the member states respect their joint responsibility to uphold free movement and ensure social rights are respected, in particular guaranteeing that EU citizens who are not self-sufficient have at least access to emergency accommodation and support.
- The establishment of ELA and an ESSN should be accompanied by the definition of uniform minimum standards for emergency support services, in order to ensure destitute EU mobile citizens to be treated with dignity in the country where they move in.
Both ELA’s operations and the establishment of the ESSN should go in the direction of regulatory simplification, ensuring that access to social security benefits is not hampered by unnecessary bureaucracy for mobile citizen.
- A particular attention is needed in the definition of the ESSN and the ELA to the most vulnerable or discriminated groups such as homeless people, third country nationals or members of ethnic minorities. These are groups of persons who are traditionally at risk of being excluded of the Social protection system and not receiving a number because of their status (not having an address for instance). In no case, the ESSN should represent an additional bureaucratic burden complicating services for these people or become a reason for inaccessibility.
- EU citizens enjoying freedom of movement should be allowed to access vocational trainings and educational opportunities in the country where they move to enhance their employability, without being conditioned to previous employment status.
- Eurodiaconia would welcome the development of ELA towards an agency with a mandatory role (option 3), which would be able to set standards and take binding decisions for member states in case of disputes
- It is crucial that ELA is not only a single digital point, but provides also support together with national labour or social authorities. Many vulnerable persons face difficulties in accessing online information and need competent advice. Therefore it is essential that social workers and other staff of the different authorities are well trained and informed about the rights of EU mobile citizens
For more information concerning Eurodiaconia’s position and work on EU labour mobility, please check
- Eurodiaconia Policy Paper Free movement in the EU: preventing destitution of mobile EU citizen
- Access to social and health services for migrants in Europe: overcoming the barriers: Policy recommendations and good practice from diaconal service providers
- The Social Challenges That The Labour Mobility Package Should Address: Response to the consultation on the Labour Mobility Package launched by DG EMPL of the European Commission, including case studies and examples from Eurodiaconia’s members
We thank you for your interest in our work and the attention that you will be giving to this letter, and in doing so, for the consideration that you are giving to our members’ work and experience. We hope that you will give the issues highlighted in this letter careful consideration in the ongoing process of drafting these two proposals. We remain at your disposal for any further information on Eurodiaconia’s positions.