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Research project

FreeEUmove - Free movement of workers and European welfare states

The right to free movement of workers is one of the fundamental pillars of the European Union (EU), yet the conditions under which it occurs have been subject to considerable political debates between EU Member States in recent years.

Under the current rules for free movement, EU citizens enjoy the unrestricted right to move and take up employment in any other EU country and – as long as they are ‘workers’ – have full and equal access to the host country’s national welfare system. A number of EU Member States have in recent years proposed restrictions on EU workers’ access to welfare benefits, based on the argument that specific aspects of their national welfare systems create certain costs and effects that do not arise in EU Member States with other types of welfare state regimes. In the United Kingdom, it is clear that these issues fed into the debates that ultimately resulted in the Brexit referendum and the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Given the continued debates in and between EU Member States, it is important to ask and analyse whether and why cross-country differences in national welfare institutions generate tensions with the free movement of workers, and – if there are genuine tensions – how they can be reduced to help ensure the political sustainability of unrestricted intra-EU labour mobility in the future.

FreeEUmove was built on research conducted in Work Packages 4 and 7 of the H2020-funded REMINDER project (2017-2019).

Check out some of the outputs of this project. 

External Partners

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