Highly Mobile Workers and the Coordination of Social Security in the EU – Opening and Closing Pandora’s Box
PhD student: Mrs Dr E.C. van Ooij
Promotors: Mrs Prof H.E.G.S. Schneider, Dr A.P. van der Mei
Duration: 1/1/2017 - 31/12/2019
PhD defence: Maastricht, 29/9/2022
In the 21st century, rapid technological progress, increased competition stemming from globalisation, changing consumer demand and significant growth of the services sector demand more flexibility on the labour market. This can be seen in the emerging trend of variations in work organisation, working hours, wages, and workforce size. The classical employee working for an undetermined period for one employer only seems to become the exception rather than the rule. In addition, an increasing number of people works across borders within the European Union, especially in border regions such as the Euregio Maas-Rijn. In many EU Member States the employment statuses and social security rights are interconnected, therefore, the EU fundamental right of free movement interferes naturally with the competence of Member States to establish their social security system. The current approach of coordinating the national systems aims to unite the Member States will to protect their social security system with the States volition to enable a European Single Market. The EU Regulation 883/2004 applies the principle that only one national social security applies to an individual. However, flexible labour agreements, such as on-call contracts or job sharing, increase the complexity of the application of Regulation 883/2004. Notably, new patterns of work and mobility combined with several forms of employment simultaneously the patchwork-worker may result in complex and unclear situations. It may be true that employers need more workers by flexible agreements; however, workers want social security protection and need legal certainty as to which rule applies. Moreover, no sufficient or well-organised protection of the social security position of migrant workers could deter employees to accept posts in the other Member States that need to be occupied. Or, in times of economic recession, employers could take advantage of the weaker position of the worker while proposing flexible agreements only. This background begs the question to which extent Regulation 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems contributes to promoting the exercise of the free movement right of economically active professionals in a way that takes account of the new forms of employment and is in agreement with the Treaties. In this study, the researcher aims to analyse which constraints and impediments mobile professional encounters when exercising the right to move within the European Union in a professional context, while taking into account new patterns and forms of employment. Therefore, this study will scrutinise the hyper mobile sector of the cultural industries and IT sector in the Euroregion through case studies. Subsequently, a comparison between the national approaches and policies of Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands authorities applicable to those hyper mobile and (in)dependent patchwork-workers will be made. Finally, based on the foregoing analyses and comparisons, the researcher will conclude with proposing measures and recommendations to increase legal certainty for the group of patchwork-workers and reduce the obstacles they encounter when crossing borders to exercise their particular profession in another Member State. Furthermore, the outcome can serve as an example for other, yet more traditionally organised sectors that may be confronted with the phenomena of new forms of employment and mobility in the near future.