European Union, end the free movement of labour?
Should countries within the European Union restrict the movement of citizens from other EU nations?
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
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The 'free movement of labour' is a misleading term because it is not simply about bringing down barr...
The 'free movement of labour' is a misleading term because it is not simply about bringing down barriers to migration. EU member states are not only required to permit entry, but also provide a number of services (e.g. health care, education for children) to European migrant workers. This can place a huge burden on welfare services that are frequently stretched. States are thus forced to divert resources away from their most vulnerable domestic citizens towards the citizens of other countries. This is a clear failing in their duty to their own populations.
The free movement of labour would be meaningless if some basic services were not provided. If, for example, EU citizens had to purchase private schooling or emergency medical care when they worked abroad then it would be an option for only the top earners in the Union. Free labour movement requires some facilitation by the accepting state - the question is whether the benefits outweigh the costs of this.
The cost of a state 'facilitating' the free entry of foreign labour is just not worth paying. As we...
The cost of a state 'facilitating' the free entry of foreign labour is just not worth paying. As well as the huge cost of services, there are less jobs for domestic workers to take up, and there is downwards pressure on their wages due to the increased pool of potential employees. This once again impacts the most vulnerable sections of society to the greatest degree as the unemployed and low-skilled workers pay the heaviest price. Each European member state should be allowed to prioritise the welfare of its own needy citizens over the free movement of non-citizens.
This is a simplistic cost/benefit analysis. Looking at the bigger picture shows that competition for wages reduces inflation and allows companies to expand their workforces, inevitably employing more 'local' people. An expanding, cost competitive economy is the best protection socially excluded citizens can have, as it ensures welfare services can be funded and provides a ready supply of work. Statistics show that the EU states which received the largest migration of labour from the new EU accession countries grew faster in economic terms as a result.
No-one is saying we should end all labour migration, but merely that any supposed benefits of free l...
No-one is saying we should end all labour migration, but merely that any supposed benefits of free labour can be achieved without a laissez-faire approach. For example, work permit schemes are a tried and tested method. This would allow for the use of foreign labour when there is an economic benefit, whilst maintaining the control of a populace over what degree of migration occurs. This means that we can have all the benefits of free labour, whilst ensuring that the scale never imposes too great a harm. Priority could still be given to European citizens to preserve the ethos of the common market.
The free movement of labour is not just an individual right, but an important part of free trade per se. Industries, finance, goods and services do not just move themselves between countries. For their free movement to occur between EU states a large degree of labour movement is necessary. Any interference with this for political ends would distort the (most profitable) market allocation, and a system based on applications and decisions would delay and hinder all the above aspects of the common market (aside from the bureaucratic costs). The economic costs of this across the whole Union would be huge.
EU member states signed up to the common market in their own self interest - not for 'the good of th...
EU member states signed up to the common market in their own self interest - not for 'the good of the Union', or wider Europe. Indeed it is likely that they would never have signed up for the latter system at all. As EU membership is clearly a contract, based on the perceived benefits of membership, the states should be able to opt-out of protocols which are clearly disadvantageous to them, especially if they can offer viable alternatives in their place.
In a Union of states, self-interest and group interest are not so easily separable. If all members states gave up on co-operation when it was not fully to their benefit there would be no co-operation at all, and this would be to the detriment of all members. Such collective action problems are only overcome when members are willing to tolerate costs in some areas in exchange for benefits in others. A country may of course withdraw from the Union, but it cannot expect to be a member and not play by the rules, for such a Union could not sustain itself. This would be a much worse outcome.
European integration is not supported, but threatened by excessive integration. When citizens feel ...
European integration is not supported, but threatened by excessive integration. When citizens feel that such fundamental rights as the control of their borders or economies is being taken out of their hands then their enthusiasm for 'ever closer Union' wanes yet further. Real integration must proceed at the speed EU citizens are willing to allow it, not only to be legitimate, but to be sustainable in the long term. If this means jointly negotiated restrictions in some areas then perhaps this is healthy, rather than detrimental, for the Union.
One of the major problems with (relatively) low public support for the European Union is the idea that it is merely a forum for business and bureaucracy, and gives nothing back to ordinary people. The right to free travel and labour (and related rights of study, schooling and healthcare) are some of the most tangible benefits the Union gives to its citizens. If there is ever to be a viable European identity, which itself is necessary for further integration, then it must be based upon the provision of some goods and rights to its citizens. Withdrawing one of the few rights it has granted currently would deal an enormous blow to this identity.
What do you think?