EU: Unemployment payments for cross-border jobseekers paid by “home countries” could double under a European Commission plan.
European commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed that jobless benefits paid by the “home country” to a citizen seeking work in another EU member state be extended from three months to at least six.
More than 13.6 million EU citizens currently live in another member state, according to the European Commission. In recent months, government leaders in several EU nations--including Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK--have expressed concerns over “benefits tourism”, or intra-EU migrants taking advantage of more generous social benefits than are available in their originating country. Commission officials have previously expressed scepticism over the claims, saying there is no statistical evidence of benefits tourism.
A commission memo issued Thursday morning said that Brussels would begin “looking into extending the right of jobseekers to receive unemployment benefits from their home country while they are looking for a job in another EU member state beyond the current mandatory three months to increase the mobility of workers”.
While current EU law “provides the possibility for member states to extend the right to this entitlement to a maximum of six months, this right is not yet secured by the respective national practices”, a spokeswoman for Reding has told Delano.
Public support for shift
“In the 2012 public consultation on EU citizenship, a majority of respondents, 69%, considered that they should receive unemployment benefits for at least six months when looking for a job in another EU country,” she said.
Although a citizen’s “home country” would be responsible for paying employment insurance for up to six months under the plan, the commission is not issuing “definitive” rules, the spokeswoman explained. “We are not saying we will fix it to six months--[it] might also be longer--but the possibility that exists to already go to six months under current law should be used.”
The spokeswoman stated that the programme will be implemented “during 2013 and 2014”. Since Brussels is not attempting to change existing legislation on unemployment benefits, its attempt at policy alignment does not need approval by the European Parliament and European Council of government ministers.