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Frontier workers and welfare states regimes. Exploring the case of continental countries

Irina Burlacu
Maastricht Universiteit
Irina Burlacu
Maastricht Universiteit
Open Panel

Abstract

The year 2010 marked double events in the mobility of people in Europe: 25 years of freedom of movement across European borders and the launching of the new social security coordination EU regulation. Labour mobility presents one of the three core principles of mobility that lie at the foundation of the European Union. Ten million of European citizens freely move in different Member States for various reasons (family, work, tourism, etc.). More than one million out of ten are frontier workers. Frontier workers present a particular type of mobile employees and self-employees that daily commute to another Member State for work and who daily interact with two welfare systems. Benefits and taxes vary greatly across EU Member States due to differences in legislation and welfare systems. Intuitively, can be expected that frontier workers traveling between countries from similar cluster of welfare states (e.g. commuters from Ireland to the UK), they would face fewer difficulties than frontier workers from different regimes. However, praxis shows that despite similar features of social protection systems of two states (e.g. similarly generous family policy), frontier workers still face barrier problems due to differences in some social programs (e.g. pension systems) and fiscal policies. The uncertainty increases when the mobile worker is moving between two different welfare regimes (for example, a worker from France in the UK, who becomes unemployed in the UK). Frontier workers form a new, under-explored type of mobile labour force. This paper aims at examining the place of frontier workers in social policy, in general, and in the welfare typology analysis, in particular. This study intends to illustrate the case of Luxembourg and Belgium, by describing and evaluating the existent social and fiscal policies, focusing on the role of Social Security and Fiscal Agreements.