Stabilisation after the pandemic

SW – 04/2023

The European Commission's Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion published its annual report on intra-EU labour mobility 2022 published in early April. The report identified trends in the free movement of workers and it was based on the 2020/2021 data that is currently available. This issue also focused on insights into cross-border mobility, such as living and working in different member states as well as the mobility of various occupational groups.

EU migration is stable

Notwithstanding the pandemic, the number of EU citizens of working age who live and work in a member state other than their country of origin remained stable in 2021 at around 10.2 million. It is expected that the restrictive trend associated with the COVID-19 pandemic will reverse when the pandemic ends.

More than 30 per cent of EU immigrants between the ages of 20 and 64 live in Germany, which was also the main recipient country in 2021, closely followed by Spain and Italy. Luxembourg has the highest number of EU migrants as a proportion of its own population. Gender distribution is almost equal.

The level of education has increased according to the report: Whereas 28 per cent of the population had a university degree in 2016, 32 per cent held corresponding higher education by 2021.

Cross-border activities

Approximately 1.7 million workers were engaged in cross-border activities throughout the EU and EFTA states in 2021. Germany is also one of the main destinations for this group of people and when combined with Switzerland and Luxembourg, 60 per cent of the cross-border workforce moved to these countries.

The profiles of these workers varies as they depend on the economic structures of the regions adjacent to the borders: These people are from the construction and industrial sectors as well as auxiliary workers and personal services. Men are overrepresented as their share is around 70 per cent. The main countries they come from are Italy, Poland and Romania.

Challenges for social security

European workers have the right to work and live in another member state in accordance with the principle of free movement within the EU and EFTA. Resulting entitlements to social benefits are coordinated between the member states and their social security systems.

This continues to pose major challenges for the social security systems. Digitisation in particular is one of the main priorities for the member states: In addition to introducing the European Exchange of Social Security Information (EESSI) system, a Commission pilot project based on the feasibility of introducing a European Social Security Pass (ESSPASS) has been running since March 2021.