European Labour Law


‘Brexit’ Vote Has European Workers in Britain Unsure of Future: nytimes


LONDON — Filipe Graca hovered over an espresso machine at the British food chain Pret A Manger and frothed out a cafe latte for a waiting customer. Until last year, he had struggled to find any kind of a job in his native Portugal. But when he arrived in London, he was able to work almost right away.

While European nationals working in Britain make up just 5 percent of the 31.5 million-strong work force, compared to 11 percent from overseas, they have become a visible flash point in the overall debate about whether and what type of immigration really works for Britain.

The “leave” camp argues that it has been too easy for “migrant workers” from Europe to waltz into the country and take British jobs. “We have absolutely no power to control the numbers who are coming with no job offers and no qualifications from the 28 E.U. countries,” Boris Johnson, the former London mayor, said in a recent speech rallying for a Brexit.

British businesses have faced criticism for hiring them. Greencore, Britain’s biggest sandwich maker, drew fire for seeking hundreds of Hungarian employees for a new sandwich factory in Northampton, an hour north of London. Pret A Manger, whose stores dot street corners across Britain, has been faulted for employing relatively few British workers. (A spokesman for Pret A Manger declined to comment.)

Critics also point to the low wages that many E.U. workers seem willing to take in labor-intensive industries, especially people fleeing struggling economies. Nearly 40 percent of the more than two million European workers in Britain hail from low-wage nations such as Poland and Romania. And since a debt crisis struck the European south, growing numbers of Italians, Greeks, Spanish and Portuguese have left for a chance at any employment in Britain.

Read more.

Overseas students: new work visa rules make UK ‘challenging’

International students may be put off from applying to UK universities by “challenging” new restrictions on employing foreign graduates, an expert on immigration law has warned.

While higher education has won several exemptions from new proposals to limit the flow of skilled workers from outside the European Union into the UK, the new rules may still damage the university sector by increasing the perception that the UK is “too challenging” for foreign graduates who want to compete in the labour market against home-grown staff, said Katrina Cooper, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers Legal, who specialises in immigration law.

Several leading employers are now looking to close their graduate recruitment schemes to non-EU nationals thanks to the extra complexity surrounding employing foreign nationals, said Ms Cooper.

Such effects of the new proposals may lead many foreign students to opt for universities in those countries with more welcoming visa regimes, thereby harming the UK’s ability to recruit top postgraduates, Ms Cooper argued.

“These changes will give other jurisdictions, such as Australia, Canada and the US, leverage to pick up the best and brightest global talent as the perception will be that the UK is too challenging,” said Ms Cooper.

Under the reforms announced in Parliament on 24 March by immigration minister James Brokenshire, the minimum salary for experienced skilled migrants from outside the EU to gain a visa will rise from £20,800 to £30,000 in April 2017.

Non-EU graduates of UK universities are already granted five years to reach the threshold – but the rise in the threshold significantly raises the bar on the salary they must achieve to avoid being forced to leave the country.

“This could have a reputational impact on the higher education sector as it may put off students from wanting to do a PhD in the UK if there is a chance that they cannot be sponsored due to salary issues post-completion of their PhD,” said Ms Cooper.

However, the new changes may also push up the wage bills of some universities if the proposed annual £1,000 immigration skills charge on employers using non-EU nationals goes ahead, she said.

While an exemption for PhD-requiring roles will apply to most non-EU staff employed in higher education, there may be a “small proportion” of non-PhD qualified university staff subject to the new levy, Ms Cooper said.

Fears that the £30,000 salary threshold might affect large numbers of lower-paid postdoctoral researchers are likely to be unfounded as relatively few salaries in this area were below the threshold, she added.

A Universities UK spokesman agreed with this analysis, saying that the sector body did “not expect the changes to minimum salary requirements to have a major impact on the sector”.

“The vast majority of those on Tier 2 visas are employed in academic positions with salaries above the minimum thresholds set out by the government,” he added.

Universities would “review workforce planning and pay scales to ensure they don’t lose talented staff from outside the EU as a result of these changes”, he continued. “We are glad that the government has listened to the evidence and arguments provided by Universities UK and others, and has exempted jobs requiring PhDs from the proposal to levy an ‘immigration skills charge’ on employers.”



The era of the average worker is over!

WHAT does your employer owe you? For your work do you deserve (in addition to your wages) job security, excellent health care, and pension in retirement? We have a romantic notion that such benefits used to be a part of employment. The company man was the ideal, working for a large manufacturing firm for most of his (inevitably his) career and receiving a variety of forms of compensation in exchange for his life’s work. Is this still a realistic expectation? Health care inflation and longer life expectancy mean that a progressively larger share of compensation comes from benefits. This rising expense is part of the reason real wages have stagnated for many Americans.

I wonder if this situation benefits employees anymore either. In the modern and more global labour market the nature of work has changed. It’s popular to say employees can no longer coast on average skill levels, according to Thomas Friedman:

In the past, workers with average skills, doing an average job, could earn an average lifestyle. But, today, average is officially over. Being average just won’t earn you what it used to. It can’t when so many more employers have so much more access to so much more above average cheap foreign labor, cheap robotics, cheap software, cheap automation and cheap genius. Therefore, everyone needs to find their extra — their unique value contribution that makes them stand out in whatever is their field of employment. Average is over.

Read further in The Economist


The elements of a modern EU Labour Market – Enrique Fernández-Macías

ENRIQUE FERNÁNDEZ-MACÍAS  is of the opinion that a modern labour market agenda in Europe should try to boost job creation by following the high-road model of Nordic economies rather than the employment flexibilisation strategy that has been dominant in recent years. Such an agenda should also openly confront the socioeconomic divergence effect of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), by coordinating employment policies and fostering EU-level redistribution mechanisms. And it should initiate a serious debate about how to reorganise our socioeconomic systems if, as seems increasingly plausible, there is a generalised substitution of human labour by robots in a not so distant future.

What elements should be part of a modern labour market agenda in the EU? I would like to concentrate on three challenges (two of immediate application, one more speculative) that are facing European labour markets, and discuss some ideas on what can be done about them.

Challenge one: To confront job polarisation and de-standardisation, follow the Nordic model

In many European countries, employment growth has been anemic since the 1980s, with high levels of unemployment becoming endemic. The preferred approach to confront this problem has been to make employment relations less regulated and more flexible. In some cases (though not all), this resulted in faster employment creation – but often at the expense of job quality and economic stability. For instance, the deregulation of employment contracts in Spain in the 1980s led to a massive expansion of temporary employment (up to a third of all employment contracts in Spain): however, this resulted in a brutal segmentation of the labour market, a big expansion of low-value-added activities and jobs, and a more unstable economy due to the fast turnover of temporary employment contracts.

The current success of the German economy may have shaky foundations for similar reasons: successive rounds of labour market deregulation have reduced unemployment to a very low level, but at the expense of a very significant expansion of jobs in low-value-added activities, with very precarious conditions. As a result, Germany has become the canonic case of job polarisation in Europe since the 1980s and has increased its share of low-paid employment to the highest level in Europe (in 2010, the share of workers with wages below 60 per cent of the median in Germany was 24 per cent).

So what can be done? Our own research [3] shows that, although de-standardisation and job polarisation have generally grown across Europe, there are very significant exceptions that prove that such polarisation is by no means inescapable. In the last few decades, the small Nordic economies have managed to maintain low levels of unemployment while expanding high value
economic activities and creating mostly high quality jobs. Sweden is a paradigmatic case: since the 1970s, it has been consistently shifting employment from low to high skilled occupations, without a trace of the polarisation tendencies that have inflicted other labour markets during the same period. As is well known, the Swedish model is based on powerful labour unions with a strongly egalitarian strategy (they have explicitly tried to block the expansion of low-value-added activities), as well as a highly redistributive welfare state model. Perhaps less widely recognised though is the fundamental acceptance by Swedish trade unions of the need to innovate and modernise the economic system, even if that means layoffs and restructuring. In fact, Swedish unions have traditionally played a significant role in restructuring processes from the very beginning, engaging in local polities to reskill and reallocate the displaced workers. These key elements of the Nordic model could be a crucial part of a modern labour market agenda in the EU.

Challenge two: Balance the EMU shortcomings with coordinated and redistributive policies

In terms of social and employment outcomes, the 2008 crisis has been a harsh awakening from the European dream of previous years. In the first decade of the euro, it seemed as if economic integration could on its own act as a force of socioeconomic convergence between the rich and the poor European countries, fulfilling the implicit promises of the European project. Yet the crisis recast that period as a mirage, the result of unsustainable developments that would cruelly reverse after 2008, wiping off a significant part of the progress previously achieved .  This has led to the recognition that, after all, economic and monetary integration on its own – without significant coordination of social and employment policies, nor EU-level redistribution mechanisms – is a force which creates divergence, not convergence. Even worse, it can result in a ‘race-to-the-bottom’ process of downward convergence, in which social standards are used as factors of adjustment in the absence of other mechanisms.

So what can be done? A progressive labour market agenda within any European country must recognise the need to step up EU coordination of social and employment policies and develop EU-level redistribution mechanism.  In the context of European economic integration, a narrow national labour market agenda is bound to fail in many important respects. An example of such EU-level mechanisms is the idea of European coordination of minimum wage policies.  Aiming at a commonly agreed minimum relative level (the most frequently mentioned is 60 per cent of the median national wage, although there are many possible alternatives) could be a powerful tool for preventing vicious processes of racing to the bottom. Such a move would strengthen demand while minimising negative effects on the competitiveness of countries with respect to other European economies.

The difficulties for such coordination would be mostly institutional, due to the wide diversity in existing systems of minimum wage setting across Europe (with some countries having statutory universal wage floors and others collectively agreed sector-specific minima). The countries with strong collective bargaining traditions have historically feared that EU-level coordination on these issues could erode the autonomy of social partners. However, options that allow for an effective harmonisation of minimum wage levels while respecting the existing diversity in the systems of minimum wage setting could and should be explored. Another example of this type of EU-level coordination and integration that is being discussed is a European unemployment scheme to complement existing national systems.  Such a scheme would protect national labour markets against asymmetric shocks such as the one suffered after 2008, acting not only as an economic stabiliser, but also as a powerful counterbalance to the centrifugal effects of European economic integration.

Challenge three: The coming of robots and the future of European employment

The final challenge I would like to discuss is much more far-fetched and less certain than the previous two. Still, its potential implications are so vast that in my view any modern labour market agenda has to take it into account. In recent decades, human civilisation has massively expanded its capacity to process, store and communicate information. This development, which is proceeding at an accelerating pace, is precipitating a generalised increase in the rate of innovation in many different fields, with subsequent rounds of cross-fertilisation and synergies between them that suggest further acceleration in the future. For example, separate developments in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence and cloud computing are converging in ‘cloud robotics’, an innovation which allows cheap connected robots to learn from the experiences of each other and expand their overall competence massively.

These technological developments have obvious wide-ranging implications for all aspects of human civilisation. But probably the most important implications are those for the economy, understood in a broad sense. The possibility of creating highly autonomous robots that could do most of the tasks currently done by human workers seems reachable in the not-so-distant-future. This conjures visions of Arcadia, a final emancipation from work and the toils imposed by the material conditions of our existence. Yet the coming of an age of robots conjures dystopian images also. A fundamental pillar of our current socioeconomic system is that the distribution of the fruits of production is linked to participation in such production, which for the vast majority of the population takes the form of labour input. Under these parameters, a production process totally carried out by robots would exclude most of the population from any access to the material wealth created: the owners of the robots would receive all the income. Of course, such a system would be unsustainable in its own terms, since there would be hardly any demand for the goods and services produced by the robots. But what this scenario shows is that the technological developments we are entertaining may require a radical rethinking of the main principles of our political economy, particularly the link between the spheres of production and distribution.

Many argue that fears of large-scale technological unemployment are fundamentally wrong. After all, technology has been displacing labour since the agricultural revolution, and society has always found ways to allocate the excess labour, mainly through the emergence of new activities and services made possible by the increased levels of productivity and surplus. But previous large-scale technological revolutions have led to massive disruptions to the social fabric, and declines in living standards that could last generations (as testified by the social conditions of the English working class during the industrial revolution). Further to this, it is possible that this time is different: a level of technology in which machines can do all or most types of unpleasant tasks could certainly create a very different type of society, where the concept of work would have a very different meaning.

What can be done? This is such a long-term challenge, that it is difficult to say anything practical or sensible on what to do about it. And yet it seems reasonable to argue that we should start thinking about how to reorganise our socioeconomic systems in order to deal with the potential implications of a generalised substitution of human labour by robots. As previously mentioned, the key challenge is how to deal with the fact that on its own, such a development could exclude the general population from the fruits of progress. The economist Richard Freeman, echoing previous proposals of ‘people’s capitalism’, suggests a policy of expanding the ownership of robots/capital to workers, who would then benefit from the income they generate.  A radically different strategy would be to explicitly decouple the distribution of income from participation in production, by using some form of universal guaranteed income scheme financed by taxes. These ideas may seem far-fetched, but it seems likely that labour market agendas will incorporate them in a not so distant future.

Enrique Fernández-Macías is a research manager at Eurofound, Dublin. He holds a PhD in Economic Sociology from the University of Salamanca and his main research interests are job quality, occupational change and the division of labour.

Dutch startup visa, one year after the launch

Dutch startup visa, one year after the launch

Visit StartupDelta

As of 2015, the Dutch startup visa makes it possible for ambitious entrepreneurs to apply for a temporary residence permit for the Netherlands. The so-called residence permit ‘scheme for start-ups’ affords ambitious entrepreneurs one year to launch an innovative business. A prerequisite is that this start-up must be guided by an experienced mentor (facilitator) that is based in the Netherlands.

One year after the launch we are proud to show you a brief overview of the applications in 2015.

More information on the residence permit on the site of the IND

StartupDelta is working on the roll out a European startup Visa.

At at the informal meeting of Ministers responsible for research and innovation in January 27th 2016 (during the Dutch European presidency), Neelie Kroes launched the proposal on a European Startup Visa. The proposal was received with great enthusiasm.

You can read Neelie Kroes’ speech on the press page

15 Things Only People Who Work Overseas Can Understand


1. We do not automatically become fluent in another language
A lot of people assume that changing your geographic location serves as a super-booster to your language learning skills. The truth is, it doesn’t. You don’t wake up on the next day after your arrival, go to the grocery store, and start casual chit-chatting with a cashier. Even if you have spent months studying the language back at home, you won’t magically become fluent from day one. Language adoption takes time and has a number of factors that play into a person’s level of fluency. In fact, asking us why we are fluent already most likely will make us feel embarrassed, as we haven’t yet reached our desired level of proficiency.

2. We are not “lucky” or “blessed”
It may seem that we are now living in a better country with amazing job prospects and sun 365 days per year judging by our Instagram or Facebook feed, but that’s not 100% true. In fact, finding a job and sorting out all the moving stuff and paperwork requires anything but luck. It’s more like hard work, persistence, and tremendous dedication to making things work that plays a major part.

Anyone can choose to work and play where we are now. For some reason, most people decide not to make the leap of faith and put effort into the potential prospects elsewhere (and there are always opportunities available for those who seek them).

It’s not that we were “lucky” or “blessed” to get that opportunity and you didn’t. It’s just the fact that we played hard to get it and you’ve chosen not to.

3. We do miss our friends and lose contacts
The friendships you establish abroad as an adult cannot be compared to those nurtured for years at home. When you first move, you are likely to miss all the little things — like being part of the annoying gossip at the water cooler in your old office, not to mention more strong bonds like you had with your college mates and childhood friends.

While working aboard, you will inevitably miss friends’ weddings, will have to decline invitations to college anniversary meetups, and miss out on other social gatherings you would have gladly attended.

While scrolling my Facebook feed, I still feel really sad when I see yet another close friend getting married, or my old gang having great times together on a night out, without me. Sadly, the price you have to pay for your decision is losing some important social ties and missing out on important events like your nephew’s graduation or your BFF’s son’s christening.
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Proposed changes to Dutch naturalisation laws in 2016


The Dutch Parliament is in the process of passing a legislative bill that seeks changes to the Dutch Citizenship Act. The proposed amendments include extending the terms for naturalisation from five to seven years.

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The Dutch Parliament is in the process of passing a legislative bill that seeks changes to the Dutch Citizenship Act. The proposed amendments include extending the terms for naturalisation from five to seven years.

Parliamentary debate on the bill, originally scheduled for December 2015, has been postponed until the sixth week of 2016.

Proposed changes to the Citizenship Act

The Secretary of Safety and Justice recently answered questions from the Lower House about the legislative bill. We list the main proposed changes below:

Extension of naturalisation period

The term for naturalisation will be extended from five to seven years. There will be no transitional law.

This means that if you have been in the Netherlands for five years at the time of introduction of the new act, and have not yet applied for naturalisation, you will have to wait another two years until the seven-year term has been reached.

Naturalisation of spouses

Spouses of Dutch nationals cannot apply for naturalisation until they have been married for three years and are legal residents of the Netherlands. At present, married partners may sometimes include years lived abroad.

Applications from abroad no longer allowed

It will no longer be possible to file applications for naturalisation from abroad.

Currently, spouses of Dutch nationals abroad may apply from any country other than the country of their nationality. Of course all criteria for naturalisation must be satisfied.

No criminal record

All applicants aged 12 and over (currently 16 and over) must be able to show that they have no criminal record.

Extending dual nationality

In a separate memorandum of amendment the State Secretary proposes extending the term for losing Dutch citizenship, in the event of dual nationality and long-term residency outside the European Union, Aruba, Curacao or St Maarten, from 10 to 15 years.

Timing of the amendments

Consideration by the parliament of the legislative bill will take place in the week of February 8, 2016. Once passed, the amendments are expected to take effect on June 1, 2016.

Understand your situation

If you plan to apply for Dutch citizenship and you are in the “waiting period” for naturalisation then it is wise to investigate how the amendments might affect your situation. You may need to take early action to avoid extra waiting time in the future.
Need legal assistance with migration-related issues? Hermie de Voer is a partner at Everaert Advocaten and has worked with the firm in immigration and Dutch citizenship law since 2005.