Labour Mobility in the Enlarged Single European Market: Volume 32

Cover of Labour Mobility in the Enlarged Single European Market

Table of contents

(11 chapters)


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The influx of migrant workers from Central and Eastern Europe over the last decade represents the largest migratory flows to Norway in history and an unprecedented supply shock to parts of the Norwegian labour market. This article reviews existing research and summarises the findings in terms of (1) the volume, direction and temporal patterns of migration flows; (2) the economic integration of new labour migrants; (3) the impacts of labour migration on wages, employment, skills, and social organisation of work in affected industries and (4) the political and institutional responses to rising labour migration. The article concludes by discussing the overall long-term consequences of labour migration, particularly with regard to social inequality in Norway.


At a time when migration policy has moved to the centre of national and European policy agendas, the three Baltic states are taking their first steps towards building a cohesive policy response to emigration. This is especially important in the wake of the global financial crisis, which generated an increased outflow from the Baltic states.

The Baltic states are facing variety of challenges in part caused by this movement of mainly working-age men and women: demographic issues related to an ageing society, labour market challenges and social security system sustainability. Within this context, the discussion of human resource losses is growing in the public sphere in the Baltic states.

Based on interviews with experts in labour and migration in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and a review of key national policy documents, this article analyses the commonalities among and differences between these three countries’ national responses.

Despite some variations in the characteristics and extent of emigration from the three countries, the interviewed experts agree that the European Union’s policy of free mobility is socially and economically problematic. As the interviews indicate, there have been strong calls in Latvia and Lithuania for a more cohesive intra-European migration management policy to address current imbalances between EU member states and ensure that the loss of human resources in sending countries is accounted for in the recruitment policies of receiving countries. On another hand, Estonia experiences more circular movement patterns and demonstrates a rather liberal view towards migration issues, seeing a virtue in the (regional) open market.


Intra-European labour migration has divergent labour market consequences across institutional settings and economic sectors. Some sectors experience increasing pressure on industrial relations and labour market segmentation while others do not experience such effects, and it remains unclear how to explain this variation. Based on empirical findings from a comparative study of four economic sectors in Denmark, this article discusses the role of labour market institutions and structural conditions in shaping the consequences of labour migration at a sectoral level.


This article addresses the claim, particularly popular in the 2000s and implicitly resting on a segmentation view of the labour market, that a flexible labour market-driven immigration policy (within the EU as well as from outside), often associated to a ‘Canadian model’, would respond to the economic needs of continental European countries.

A comparative historical approach is applied, including analysis of historical series of unemployment and migration data and a qualitative analysis of secondary sources on Germany, Spain and Canada, selected as best representatives of different labour market and immigration regimes. The research asks to what extent, and how, immigration has been used as a ‘buffer’ for labour market uncertainty.

Against ideas of a ‘Canadian’ model advertised in Europe (e.g. Germany), the historical and quantitative analysis shows that Canada itself has moved from short-term labour market-driven immigration policies to more long-term approaches. In fact, there has been a stronger labour market-migration link in Spain, but not without problems,

The article is a small-N comparison of critical cases, that is most different labour market models. Major demographic and geographic differences exist between the three countries, which raises even more scepticism about the suitability of a Canadian model in Europe.

The policy implications are centred on the detected paradox of labour market-driven immigration policies: in order to be sustainable, they need to have a long-term orientation and involve some degree of social integration policies.

The article adds to comparative studies of migration policies through a stronger link to labour market analysis and in particular issues of uncertainty and segmentation.


Germany has become one of the major destination countries for labour migration within the European Union. The German government introduced temporary restrictions on labour migration after the eastern enlargement rounds of 2004 and 2007. These barriers had little impact on the overall volume of labour mobility. Rather they were accompanied by new “atypical” forms of mobility through the posting of workers, self-employment and seasonal workers, which according to EU rules are covered only by a minimum of host country regulations. The combination of temporary restrictions on regular migration and the opportunities through atypical mobility created strong incentives for companies to engage in ‘regime shopping’ strategies. This contributed to a considerable growth in outsourcing, subcontracting and flexible use of external labour added to pre-existing dynamics of low-wage competition, segmentation and fragmentation in the German labour market. Using data on the different forms of intra-EU migration to Germany, the article analyses the different paths that labour migration has frequently used since the fall of the Iron Curtain. First, it maps the changes in magnitude, character and direction of intra-EU labour mobility to Germany and the relative weight of the different channels through which such movements occurred from 2000 to 2015. Second, the article discusses the various responses by the government by the extension of collective agreements and the statutory minimum wage.


This article investigates how internationalisation through labour mobility can strengthen collective bargaining in coordinated market economies. It shows how new political cleavages generated by internationalisation can foster the re-regulation of labour markets and how the alliance between trade unions and employers in sheltered sectors of the economy can increase domestic coordination to limit wage competition. These two mechanisms explain why the opening of the labour market for EU workers and services in Switzerland has been followed by a re-regulation process in which collective bargaining coordination has strengthened despite the weakness of organised labour and the resistance of export industries. Following the opening of the labour market, the coverage of collective bargaining has increased and the number of workers covered by extended collective agreements nearly tripled.


This article compares the mobility experience of Austria, Germany, Ireland and the United Kingdom post-enlargement. In all four countries, migrant inflows from the new EU member states account for the bulk of contemporary labour mobility. At the same time, issues of wage dumping have arisen everywhere, raising questions about compliance and the ‘re-embedding’ of mobility flows. Hence the article examines the labour market impact of recent East-West migration as well as policy responses by the social partners and public authorities that are geared towards the re-regulation of employment standards. Some commonalities are identified, especially in relation to the broadening of national wage floors and the growing role of the state in enforcing labour standards. However, some differences remain, especially whether re-regulation happens on the basis of collective agreements or statutory minimum rights. In this regard, different bargaining traditions, the power resources of labour market actors and the capacity of unions to build political coalitions with the state and employers are identified as crucial factors in shaping national and sectoral response strategies.


The aim of this article is to analyse how different policies and actors have structured the current migrant labour regime in the Finnish construction sector and to discuss the consequences for migrants. Our study shows that a strong industrial relations system such as in Finland is able to curb the posting of workers regime (the most disadvantageous for migrant workers). The position of labour migrants has become more diverse in the segmented labour market, although it remains inferior compared to that of the natives. Consideration of the policy development revolving around the changing migrant labour regimes constitutes the first part of the analysis and is based on government and trade union officials’ accounts. The more substantial part of the study draws upon biographical interviews with Estonian construction workers and analyses the division of migrant labour according to their employment in four ‘patterns of firm ownership’ that range from the most unfavourable to most favourable position: workers posted by Estonian firms; workers employed by firms registered in Finland but operated by Estonians; self-employed/small business owners and workers employed by Finnish firms. The structuring of the regime according to the pattern of firm ownership can be interpreted as a manifestation of employers’ intentional strategies to adapt to or avoid national regulations and to some extent as also reflecting workers’ individual and collective agency.

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Pages 241-244
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Cover of Labour Mobility in the Enlarged Single European Market
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Book series
Comparative Social Research
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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