Social security: more flexibility for people living in another EU country  

New rules are set to make it easier to work in another EU country © AP Images/European Union - EP  

Find out how the coordination of social security in the EU works and how Parliament wants to improve the system to make it easier to work abroad.

On 20 November, Parliament's employment committee voted in favour of updated rules to make it easier for people to work in another EU country and have fair access to social security. The committee’s decision to start negotiations with the Council on the new rules was approved by MEPs during the plenary session on Tuesday 11 December.

Why do we need social security coordination?

As an EU citizen, you have the right to move to another EU country to study, work temporarily or settle permanently. About 14 million EU residents, including pensioners and people not in employment, already live in another member state. EU rules ensure that they get the social and health benefits they are entitled to. These rules determine which national system they are subject to and aim to prevent them being left without protection or being covered twice.

Coordination, not harmonisation

EU legislation covers sickness, parental leave, family, unemployment and similar benefits. However, EU countries remain responsible for their social security systems. It is up to them to decide which benefits are granted, under which conditions and which contributions are to be paid. EU rules only coordinate the interaction between national systems.

What does it mean in practice?

As a basic rule, people who live and work in another EU country are subject to the legislation of the country where they actually work. Job seekers can get unemployment benefits from their country of origin during a certain period in another member state where they are looking for a job, while pensioners who have worked in different countries can combine periods of insurance to get a full pension. Finally, tourists have access to health services via the European Health Insurance Card during temporary stays.

The basic principles of social security coordination 
  • You are covered by the social security system of one country and only pay contributions in one country 
  • You have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where you are insured 
  • Previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other countries are taken into account, if necessary  
  • Cash benefits from one country may generally still be granted, even when you are living in another country 

New rules for unemployment, family and long-term care benefits

Job seekers looking for employment in another EU country currently benefit from unemployment benefits for a minimum of three months.  The employment committee supports increasing this to six months, with the possibility of prolongation until the benefits expire.

Committee members also believe people should be able to choose whether to get unemployment benefits from the last country they worked in or the country they currently live in.

Family cash benefits intended to replace income when someone stops work to raise a child should count as a personal benefit for the parent concerned and be separate from other family benefits.

Members also support provisions for legal clarity and transparency for long-term care benefits