Social insurance for mobile construction workers: The effects of posting and other forms of mobility on worker precarity

One goal of European integration has been to realise free mobility of labour and services across the EU. But this entails that mobile workers should have continuity of social insurance coverage and contributions wherever they are working in the EU. Because replacing national welfare states with a pan- European system is too ambitious for the foreseeable future, efforts have instead focused on ensuring continuity of coverage. For posted workers, this is resolved by maintaining home country coverage, albeit for a limited period of up to 24 months. Workers who move independently of an existing employment relationship (for example, those who move to take up a host country job contract) instead enter into the host country’s social insurance system upon arriving. Current social security coordination arrangements in the EU do not address the needs of mobile construction workers adequately because: (i) they depend on employers’ capacity and willingness to comply actively with regulations; and (ii) EU social welfare systems are designed with national labour markets in mind and take transnational work into account only as an afterthought. The existing coordination arrangements, as we found from our interviews with mobile construction workers and industry stakeholders, do not function well (or at all) when employers do not take an active role in ensuring that their mobile employees are covered. This policy brief aims to analyse the effects of this variegated pan- EU system of interlinked social insurance regimes from the perspective of mobile workers navigating the single EU internal labour market.