In his State of the Union Address, President Juncker made it clear why Europe needs a European Labour Authority. The new body will ensure that “EU rules on labour mobility are enforced in a fair, simple and effective way.” Juncker stated that one of the reasons a new authority should be established is that currently 16 million Europeans have a different nationality to the Member State in which they live. In addition, there are 1.7 million Europeans who commute daily to another Member State. As there is already a Banking Authority to enforce banking standards, a corresponding labour authority should do the same in its field.
The new authority will also combat abuse of labour and social legislation, as well as organise joint cross-border controls. Finally, it will build on existing agencies and structures in order to better manage cross-border and joint activities such as health and safety at work.
In the opinion of some experts, establishing an additional agency alongside national labour bodies does not address the actual problems in the EU labour market. Due to years of mass unemployment and over-indebtedness in many national economies, with their negative effects on the labour market, there are the organisations in difficulty who have to deal with the economic risk of unemployment through the benefits they provide.
Other sources are already talking about or calling for harmonisation of unemployment insurance. Whether this is independent of President Juncker or loosely connected is another question. With a population of around 500 million people in the EU, the 1.7 million daily cross-border commuters, although significant, do not really represent a problem for experienced national social authorities and tax offices. The approximately 16 million people who live in a Member State of which they are not citizens are generally well integrated in administrative terms, whether as migrant workers, ‘Mallorca retirees’ or students.
Following the start of the migration waves in 2015, the only real area where there could be certain individual problems would be with third party nationals. However, many critics believe that these issues can be dealt with by the respective Member States where the third-party nationals live. This applies across the board to issues regarding residency law and access to welfare services. The real problem with the EU labour market and the social security benefits associated with the risk of unemployment is not the minor obstacles to accessing jobs in other countries for well-qualified, multi-lingual people, but rather the empty coffers of national social administrations in many Member States. Critics of the project believe that a single social security number would require significant bureaucratic effort with only little benefit.
Juncker has also announced plans for further measures to support fair mobility and he has once again called for the introduction of a European Social Security Number. In the reflection paper on Europe’s social dimension, this project was mentioned as an example of achieving ‘more’ Europe in by introducing common rules and standards.
More information is available here.