Eliminating national borders as labour market barriers in the EU

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This paper addresses one important mechanism through which the EU tries to improve the operation of its labour markets: the opening up of national borders for free worker movement within the EU. Free worker movement is a fundamental EU right; but EU enlargement begged the question of how and when to allow complete free movement to workers from those new Member States. The EU agreed upon a transitional period of up to 7 years after accession of eight new Middle and Eastern European States (EU-8) on May 1st, 2004. During
this transitional period Member States may apply certain restrictions on the free movement of workers from, to and between these new Member States. By 2012, all such restrictions will have been abolished. A similar procedure applies regarding the accession of two additional new Member States on January 1st, 2007. Only three of the fifteen incumbent EU Member States at the time (EU-15) chose to immediately allow free movement from workers from the EU-8. The other twelve maintained their work permit systems, albeit with some modifications. Since, some (e.g. Germany) have already decided to keep such barriers in place until 2012. The Netherlands has kept a work permit system in place up to May 1st, 2007. At that time it abolished that system and effectively extended free worker movement to include workers from the EU-8. This makes the Dutch case, at this point in time, an interesting case for which to analyse the process and effects of increased free labour movement into a national labour
market. This paper discusses the evolution of (temporary) work migration from EU-8 countries into the Netherlands. It first addresses the flexicurity nature of EU policies towards labour market integration and towards the inclusion of new EU countries in that process. It subsequentely reviews the three socio-legal regimes that can currently apply to work performed for Dutch firms Netherlands by workers from the EU-8 (which, now, is that same as that applies for workers from the EU-15): wage employment; employment through temporary employment agencies; and self-employment. It then discusses the development of the volume of work performed by citizens from the EU-8 in the Netherlands, and socio-economic effects for both the migrant workers and Dutch society and economy. It concludes with a discussion of challenges (or the lack thereof) that this increased free movement of foreign labour caused and causes for Dutch institutions.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • labour market
  • european union


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