Free movement of workers - a blessing or a curse? 50-years of the EU Regulation on the free movement of workers

The closing event of the MoveS network series this year was held in Salzburg on November 15-16, 2018, at which an international coordinator of KINCS has participated. The network devotes itself to issues relating to the free movement of workers and social services, is funded by the European Commission, and its members include national experts from Member States.

During the two days of the event several well-known professionals presented their research and views on different aspects of free movement of workers.

Michael Blauberger (University of Salzburg) explained the political viewpoint in detail. During his research, he studied social citizenship in six different countries in relation to welfare-social benefits and the free movement of workers.

Subsequently, Kyoko Shinozaki (University of Salzburg) has highlighted the sociological viewpoint. The rapporteur considers that mobility is more in the focus than migration. As an example, she has mentioned that the process has escalated to the level of setting up employment agencies in some countries such as Poland in order to promote employment in Germany. She has then talked about transnational families where one or both parents are working in a different country than their children live. This leads to the forming of so-called ‘global care chains’ as children are raised by another person (typically grandparent, aunt or neighbour) while the mother may also take care of a child in another country (for payment only to foreign children). Shinozaki mentions the research on the role of fathers by Lutz and Palenga-Möllenbeck (2010, 2016) as well as her own 2015 research.

Josef Zuckerstätter (Arbeiterkammer Wien) highlighted the economic point of view. In this context, he presented the timelines of Austria's immigration and emigration, and listed the most common causes of migration.

At a later stage in the day, Franz Marhold (WU Wien) gave a lecture on the free movement of workers and associated family allowances. The focus of the lecture was on the topic of the indexation, which was has a large importance on Hungarian families. The rapporteur presented the process of changing principles at EU level. She then described several methodological objections on which they have based their own legislation. As a closure, he has repeatedly emphasized that, in their view, their national legislation is very much in line with the international regulatory process, even if at the moment the Member States and even the Commission itself disagree.

On the second day Wolfgang Kozak (Arbeiterkammer Wien) outlined the posting directive in Austrian terms. He noted that Austria was essentially a host country with a small number of posted workers. In his view, the sending country is often unaware of the fact that it causes social dumping in the host country. Thus, if the recipient country, though providing lower allowances, which is still higher than the country of origin, can be a suitable solution. However, national authorities are unwilling to recognize social dumping, which must be enforced by EU legal changes. That is why it is only viable when working on the adoption of EU draft legislation.

After that, Martin Risak (Universität Wien) gave a lecture with the title: Working in a cross-border virtual space - a new European labour law case? as the closing event of the conference. Virtual work takes place in two places: physically in one country, but virtually, regarding the aim of the work, in another country. An example of this is a Hungarian payroll specialist who works for an Austrian company from his/her home country. There are a number of reasons for popularity of virtual work on the employers' side: transaction costs are low, no travel costs, no separation of the employee from his family, and one can benefit from the differences of social and accommodation costs. However, it is important to point out that this practice puts pressure on domestic wage and social benefits (in this case, the Austrian market). Question is what we want to do about it. The rapporteur has also raised the possibility of wording a directive on virtual work.

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