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News Unemployed from southern Europe moving north.

  1. Jun 13, 2013 #1
    As far as I know, EU laws and regulations make such migration fairly easy. I believe the unemployed from one member state need not have a job offer in another member state in order to relocate there. Is this correct? Can they apply for benefits in their new location? Do member states have any effective ways to deal with the tax burden such immigration may impose?

    I believe the EU only has border controls on traffic originating outside the EU. Am I wrong in seeing this (predictable) phenomenon as a threat to the existence of the EU as it is presently constituted? Of course, the same situation exists in the US with respect to movement between states, but you might say we are used to it.


    I see only the headline copied, but the point is made. The full text is available free online.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
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  3. Jun 13, 2013 #2
    Your first question: yes this is correct AFAIK. In the UK for example, as a Spanish citizen, living there for 6 months I qualify as a "resident" and pay "resident" income tax as opposed to a different income tax (which I don't remember if it is less or more than it is for residents).

    During my stay in the UK, I got access to a GP via my university enrollment, but I also have the EU health insurance card(doesn't cost a dime), which technically means I can get basic medical care anywhere in the EU(never used it though, so I don't understand the details). Many UK and German citizens travel to Spain to get medical care on these grounds, as sometimes the waiting lists for surgeries are shorter(and they can enjoy their vacation/retirement with good weather). Everyone who pitches taxes in to the EU gets a piece of the welfare pie, so nobody is getting a free ride.

    I am not sure about benefits.

    The real threat to the EU is IMO the open-door policy to Islamic fundamentalist political lobbying. Blasphemy laws, special treatment for Islamic practices that would constitute criminal offenses otherwise, etc.
  4. Jun 13, 2013 #3


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    There is no problem with moving and working in other countries. I am not sure what counts as benefits, whatever it includes to some extent it depends on the local regulations (no single law for all EU countries).
  5. Jun 13, 2013 #4
    If by benefits you mean unemployment welfare, then it depends on the country. My guess is that everyone gets the same treatment within that country. It is, after all, part of the money that is deducted from your paycheck and you never get more than you give.
  6. Jun 13, 2013 #5
    Well, I'm talking about the unemployed who relocate to another member state without the having secured a job. Can they collect unemployment benefits and enroll their children in schools? You say it depends on the country, but is that the case? Don't all EU members have to provide a certain level of services for unemployed immigrants from within the EU?. In any case, it's likely the countries with better benefits would attract more of the unemployed. This of course shifts the resulting tax burden to the host country to the extent that the immigrants cannot be absorbed into the labor force. Politically, it seems governments would tend to adopt policies that favor native workers to foreign workers for the jobs that are available.

    Perhaps I'm missing something, but to what extent has the idea of One Europe really taken hold? For example, will a country like Germany welcome significant numbers of the unemployed from other EU member states? What if they don't?

    EDIT: I'm not talking about immigration from outside the EU. As far as I know, member states have different policies regarding this.
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  7. Jun 13, 2013 #6


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  8. Jun 13, 2013 #7
    Right! As citizens of a member state, they would seem to have a right to relocate to any other member state, just as a citizen may freely relocate within the US. (I'm not sure this is exactly correct so I'm asking the question.) I think this could pose a far greater threat to the stability of the EU than issues of immigration from outside the EU. We're talking about a pool of millions of unemployed from southern Europe, and Germany would be the major destination. There are no internal border controls under current laws. Should Europe step back a bit from a perhaps overly idealistic model of European integration or risk even greater damage to the what's already been achieved?

    Frankly, I think the reason it hasn't happened yet is that they really don't want to leave their native countries. If you ever visited Spain, Italy or Greece (albeit it in better times), you know what I mean.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  9. Jun 14, 2013 #8


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    In Poland their kids will be accepted in school, no problem, but to register as unemployed they would have to prove they worked legally (paying taxes in Poland) for at least a year.

    So you will not get much by just moving here - and I doubt other countries are much different in this regard.
  10. Jun 14, 2013 #9
    Correct. This also holds for Spain, Germany and the UK as far as unemployment benefits are concerned, and I would be surprised if it were even slightly different in any other member state.

    You don't move into a new country and sign up for unemployment benefits. You must have been working legally in the country for a certain amount of time to be eligible for unemployment welfare, and you only get an amount related to the time you worked/salary you had. In Spain it's something like 15-20 days of unemployment for every year you worked, and you get paid 60% of your original salary for that amount of time (so a person who worked for 2 years would get paid a single month of unemployment welfare, making 60% of their original salary). You are never a burden, you always pay more in taxes than you get back in welfare benefits (unless you really manage to cheat the system, but it's difficult to do and the fines/sentences can be pretty severe).

    Mass migration of Spaniards and Greeks is continually growing. I ran into and gave directions for a few Greek families and young and middle-aged Spaniards during my time in London that were looking pretty lost. Pretty sad really. A lot of highly trained people from Spain are taking up unskilled labor like bar-tending and at grocery stores in the UK, I have seen this myself. Spain has the 2nd highest increase in expatriation in the EU, this was on national news recently, I'm guessing the first one is Greece.

    I'm from Spain and I agree a lot of people have difficulty in leaving their families and life behind, we are mostly creatures of habit, but many of the younger folks (namely the university educated ones) are doing it in increasing numbers. It also doesn't help that Spaniards in general have very poor 2nd language skills, few really speak fluent English or German as a 2nd language, unlike many other member countries. This is a consequence of the bureaucratic difficulties put in place that make it almost impossible for foreigners to take up jobs in public schools. Nobody is going to learn proper English from another Spaniard. Japan suffered the same problem and they at least try remedying it with their "hire an foreign teacher for a year" programs.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  11. Jun 14, 2013 #10


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    I can only tell about the situation in Germany. The question at hand is not finally solved. EU citizens usually can enroll their children in schools, but do not get full social security benefits. Until around 2010 they did not get any significant benefits. However, a treaty signed in 1957 by 17 European countries states that citizens of all states signing this treaty should have access to social security benefits if they are legally present in one of the signing states. In 2010 a German court ruled that this treaty has to be respected. In the current version, this means that EU citizens can get social security benefits with the explicit exception of Hartz 4 which is the basic social security/long term unemployment benefit which does not require having paid some social security fees.

    As this is pretty much the only benefit EU citizens moving to Germany without being able to get a job could apply for, this still means that there are no unemployment benefits for unemployed EU citizens. This wording was explicitly put there to avoid having "social security immigration" from Romania or Bulgaria or also Greece. However, this may go to court again and it is not clear whether the current practice is compatible with European law. However, I do not expect a significant change. Having to give full social security benefits to every EU citizen who chooses to come to Germany would cause a pretty significant crisis.

    As a side note, there are lots of people coming to Germany from Spain or Greece, mostly unemployed highly qualified specialists who are able to get a job in Germany. However, around 50% of them already leave during the first year. The salary might sound great, but many underestimate the cost of living - or they just want to have a short term job until they find a job at home.
  12. Jun 14, 2013 #11
    Thanks everyone. It seems the situation is more like the US, in that member states can require immigrants to establish work records in the host state before becoming eligible for unemployment benefits. Still, if large numbers do arrive from other member states and are unable to find work, political pressure for border controls might still arise for a variety of reasons.
  13. Jun 14, 2013 #12
    Such as? They aren't a burden on the state. Nobody migrates to a new member state with a 2, 3 or 4-fold (my case) cost of living without a smart plan including a job contract and savings. Also, enforcement against illegal employment is very strict in most of Europe unlike it is in the US (I have met countless illegal workers from South America in the US that have gotten by for over a decade, but not a single illegal worker in Spain or the UK).

    For a Spaniard or Greek to move anywhere North without a solid plan would be condemning themselves to homelessness. Like Cthuga says a lot of them end up returning to their home countries if they don't get a follow up contract that enables them to cover living costs (or in the rare event they get an indefinite contract back home).
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  14. Jun 14, 2013 #13
    One possible example: For high skilled jobs, couldn't employers negotiate lower salaries for foreign workers than for native/domestic workers? Are there any laws that would prevent that?
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  15. Jun 14, 2013 #14
    Nope, they cannot. This would be illegal in any member state, a legal contract cannot be below the minimum wage for that specific profession (if it is regulated, such as medicine or engineering). Regulations against corporate-greed practices are pretty good within most of the EU.

    Of course there are ways for employers to cheat this, such as hiring skilled workers under the label of "job training"/internship or similar and perpetually renewing their contract with sub-professional wages and no benefits. This happens a lot in my country, many engineering graduates can only find temporary "job trainings" through university career services, making 600€ a month for highly skilled work (this is just slightly below the absolute minimum wage for any basic retail or services job). I've heard real horror stories in the medical profession and science post-docs and RA's.

    I think most of the wealthier EU states have more sane and ethical legislation to prevent this abuse. The Spanish private sector is notoriously greedy and unethical within the country borders, and government + public service corruption and nepotism is rife. Labor rights are much better even in more "theoretically" right wing/liberal countries in the EU.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  16. Jun 14, 2013 #15
    OK. Say I'm a German employer (in Germany) and I need a computer programmer for robots. Three applicants meet my needs: two German and one Spaniard. I could offer the Spaniard a smaller, but still adequate salary and say it's because he/she lacks German language skills (even though the job doesn't really require German language skills). I doubt the state will have a specific template for every possible job description.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  17. Jun 14, 2013 #16
    I don't know about Germany specifically, but I know Spain and the UK do have specific templates for regulated professions. If it's the same job, you cannot be hired for a lower salary on any grounds. It would have to be a different (existing) job title with the salary the employer wants to give to the employee.

    My sister, a law graduate, was hired as an "auxiliary administrator" at a small firm instead of a higher category (I forget the name) that better fit the type of work she did, but the employer purposefully did this to pay her less. Naturally with unemployment so high most people just suck it up and bear with it. She left that terrible job and is now self-employed with moderate success (though she had to move back in with my mother at the age of 40, so not successful by American standards, but that's how things roll here). It's probably much harder to do this kind of cheating in engineering, medicine or other high risk professions where the employer is open to serious responsibility lawsuits.

    An analogous example in the US is what the federal government decrees as a "Physical Science Technician" I and II, which have numbers 1311 and 1312 if I'm not mistaken, or the "grade 8" and "grade 9" distinctions (I forget the details but I ran into these a lot in my recent job hunt). Both similar (governmental) job titles, different regulations for salary. You'll likely find the details on a site like USAJobs or some other government site.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  18. Jun 14, 2013 #17
    That's my point. I need the programming skills, not the German language skills. So I hire the Spaniard under a slightly different job description and tell the German applicants we decided not to fill the originally advertised position.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2013
  19. Jun 14, 2013 #18


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    I am not sure what's your point. Yes, there is no 100% cheat proof system. Yes, you can employ someone for slightly lower salary ("still adequate", to quote your post). No, when you employ someone in Germany you can't have them half free as when you outsource the job to Asia.
  20. Jun 14, 2013 #19
    The employer could have hired also hired a German with the lower-salaried job description without giving them any lame explanation based on lack of language skills (which wouldn't fly for any job, really).
  21. Jun 14, 2013 #20
    Well, we will see what happens.
  22. Jun 16, 2013 #21


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    The employment situation in Northern Europe isn't exactly peachy. Sure the UK might be better than Greece (for example) but its by no means easy to get a job. On top of that the price of living is far higher in these countries so its not easy to pick up and move there.

    Occasionally there are "problems" when papers and people complain about immigration of European workers but generally there's not a problem.
  23. Jun 16, 2013 #22
    Also, the perceived "problems" that have been suggested in this thread (undercutting of North European salaries) are not a consequence of open-door mobility in the EU. It's a consequence of sneaky, greedy behavior on the part of employers.
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