(In)Secure Mobility: Posted workers’ acquiescence, social insurance, and economic rationality

The final report of the SMUG project focuses on the relationship of posted workers with social insurance institutions. Based on 61 posted workers in six EU countries, we find that "posting” is one form that work contracts including mobility can take amongst others, at various times, which means their social insurance does not always remain with their country of residence, but rather a worker will tend to be covered by different systems at different moments - assuming he is properly and legally enrolled. Fraud and informal employment are rife within the construction industry and are particularly common when transnational service provision is involved. Employers sometimes take advantage of workers’ lack of knowledge and reluctance to engage with authorities in host countries, in order to save on social security payments. This results in coverage gaps, which only become apparent when the social insurance is needed. Our research participants showed a preoccupation with net earnings at the expense of other important considerations such as social protection and security. For instance, workers seldom expressed worry about whether employers make social contributions on behalf of the worker as required to the relevant institutions, whether old age pension contributions are made, as well as other social security features. While this could simply be short-sightedness, it could also reflect a lack of faith in social insurance systems. There is a vast variety and complexity of social insurance situations faced by posted workers, reflecting the fact that there is a single pan-European labour market in construction, but social insurance is arranged through a vast variety of contingent arrangements. As a plausible remedy, we propose a minimum social security package for all mobile workers in the EU, including TCNs who are posted via one EU member state to another.