CET and University of Luxembourg

Five ways Luxembourg discriminates against EU workers

The University of Luxembourg and the Centre for Equal Treatment (CET) have examined the obstacles to the free movement of European workers in Luxembourg. Photo: Shutterstock

The University of Luxembourg and the Centre for Equal Treatment (CET) have examined the obstacles to the free movement of European workers in Luxembourg. Photo: Shutterstock

Difficulties in recognising diplomas, language constraints in the public sector... In a joint report, the Centre for Equal Treatment and the University of Luxembourg identify five “restrictions and unjustified obstacles to the right to free movement and non-discrimination” for European workers in Luxembourg.

“Freedom of movement for workers has been one of the founding principles of the EU since its inception,” writes the European Parliament on its website. “This includes the rights of movement and residence for workers, the rights of entry and residence for family members, and the right to work in another member state and be treated on an equal footing with nationals of that member state. Restrictions apply for the public service.”

However, in practice, “obstacles” limit this right, according to the Centre for Equal Treatment (CET) and the University of Luxembourg (Uni). In a joint report, they have sought to identify these obstacles. Their investigation is based on an analysis of legislation and case law, the perceptions of 274 professionals from public and private organisations, an analysis of 230 job offers in the public sector (for the language requirements indicator), 10 interviews with EU citizens and Ombudsman reports. As a result, five points were identified as being the most problematic.

Withdrawal of right of residence

The first concerns the withdrawal of the right of residence of inactive EU citizens on the grounds of “unreasonable burden on the social assistance system.” The report admits that this provision is enshrined in Luxembourg law and “complies with the European directive” on the subject. However, it regrets the absence of quantitative criteria for interpreting the notion of “unreasonable burden.”

90.3% of the people questioned for the survey believe that loss of employment due to incapacity for work should not be a reason to encourage the person concerned to leave Luxembourg. 78% of European citizens in the grand duchy and 52% of Luxembourg respondents have the same opinion regarding a person who has become unable to work due to illness or disability. 20% of Luxembourgers believe that EU citizens should leave the country after having tried all job search programmes.

Family reunification

The granting of residence rights for family reunification is also the subject of debate. 42% of European citizens are in favour of “the right of children to join their parents in Luxembourg, regardless of their age and without having to justify any state of financial dependence on their parents.”

At present, reunification only concerns the spouse/partner, direct descendants and dependent direct ascendants, as well as those of the spouse.

Luxembourg is planning a law to extend this right to the families of non-EU nationals .

Recognition of diplomas

The report also highlights the challenge of recognising qualifications, whether for studying or working in the country. “The very small number of decisions handed down by the administrative courts on this subject makes it impossible to assess the exact scale of cases in which diplomas are refused recognition.” On the other hand, the majority of respondents to the survey advocate such recognition throughout the EU, and that professional experience acquired in a member state should also be taken into account.

Restrictions in the public sector

The public sector is a poor pupil when it comes to equal access to work. Although community law clearly states that restrictions may apply in the public sector, the CET and the Uni consider that these are too great in the grand duchy.

They consider it appropriate to reserve posts for nationals in “the judiciary, the army, the police, the diplomatic corps and certain managerial posts in government departments and services,” but less so for jobs in “the government administration and the administrations and services created within it.” Nor do they feel that language requirements are always justified.

Their analysis shows that “a Luxembourg citizen is four times more likely to get a job in the public sector than an EU citizen.”

Social benefits

The final inequality concerns social benefits for cross-border workers. “I don’t know how much pension I’m going to get. As a Luxembourger, you have a better idea of what your pension will be,” said one respondent. “A Belgian or French cross-border worker does not have access to the disability file if he or she is not working in Luxembourg at the time (in the event of incapacity or professional reclassification),” said another.

Inequalities noted above all by European citizens

The CET and the Uni are addressing their report in particular to the political players. The issue is all the more important for Luxembourg, which has 47% of cross-border workers. Of the 53% of resident workers, 51.3% are not Luxembourg nationals. That’s “one employee in four” with Luxembourg nationality, according to Statec.

It should be noted that 72% of participants in the CET and Uni survey stated that they had never or rarely observed any unequal treatment of a European citizen at work over the last five years. This figure drops to 58% for respondents who are not Luxembourg nationals.

This story was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.