At the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Labour in Copenhagen on 17 November 2015, we – the Nordic Ministers for Employment and Labour – discussed the question of unemployment benefits in the Nordic countries and their interaction with current EU regulation, particularly Regulation (EC) no. 883/2004.
Regulation 883/2004 is an important tool to support the free movement of workers in the Nordic countries and in EU as a whole. Our countries and economies have benefitted greatly from the free movement of workers. Mobility across the European Union is an important requisite for the individual to provide for him or herself, progress socially and contribute to the creation of wealth. This is not only important for the individual but also for their families as well as our societies.
However, it is important that the EU legislation is adjusted according to how the European Union and its labour markets develop. The now 32 EU/EEA countries have different systems of social security and welfare benefits and there are substantial differences in the levels of wages and living conditions across EU/EEA countries. In order to be perceived as just and fair and sustainable in the long run, the rules governing unemployment benefits should reflect and be adjusted to these differences. Also, common provisions should not be detriment to other EU agendas such as the use of active labour market measures – advocated by the European Commission and practiced for years in the Nordic countries.
Agreeing that EU legislation should be adapted when needed and new rules not introduced just for the sake of it, we find it necessary to modernize the rules so that they reflect European society today.
Against this background, we consider it of utmost importance that the 883 regulation and its rules of coordination:
- are perceived as fair and just – reflecting an ever larger and more heterogeneous EU;
- support and reflect the use of an active labour market policy – increasingly combining benefits to the individual with requirements of activity and availability;
- acknowledge the development of labour market recruitment and use of ICT and internet for job search across borders – thus making it unnecessary to extending the exportability of unemployment benefits to more than three months;
- allow Member States to better control whether persons who are exporting unemployment benefits are actually actively seeking job; and
- do not take a form that risk to undermine the high levels of welfare benefits achieved in more Member States.
We urge the Commission to consider these points as you prepare for the Employment Mobility Package. We are naturally at your disposal for any questions you may have.
Jørn Neergaard Larsen
Minister for Employment
Minister of Justice and Employment
Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Minister for Employment
Minister of Social Affairs and Housing