The most important research on the posting of workers in the EU is hot off the press!

In February 2019, Frederic De Wispelaere and Prof. Jozef Pacolet from HIVA-KU Leuven published their annual report on A1 Portable Documents (A1 PDs) issued in 2017, commissioned by the European Commission.

The report analyzes the changes from both sending and receiving perspective, with a special focus on the posting of workers, in particular in the context of the revision of the Regulation EC No 883/2004 on the coordination of social security systems, taking stock of the adoption of the Directive 2018/957 on the posting of workers in June 2018, too. In appreciation for their research the authors were granted the Labor Mobilis 2017 Award during V ELMC.

Subject of the research

As in their previous reports, researchers focus attention on the fact that the statistical data is only an indication, as the number of A1 PDs issued may not fully reflect the reality of the posting of workers. This is due to the fact that the status of posted workers is regulated by the Directive 96/71 on the posting of workers, and not by Regulation 883/2004, which takes into account both posted workers and persons who are active in two or more Member States as well as the self-employed.

Number of A1 Portable Documents issued

According to the report, a total of 2.8 million A1 PDs were issued in 2017, which means the overall number of A1 PDs issued increased by 22% in comparison to 2016 (2.3 million A1 PDs), which in turn reflected an increase by 12% in comparison with 2015. The share of A1 PDs issued for persons active in two or more Member States on the basis of art. 13 of the Basic Regulation (Regulation 883/2004) grew from 27.3% in 2016 to 36% in 2017 of all certificates issued, which made for a whopping increase of 64.4% as compared year to year.

The authors of the report emphasized that the A1 PDs issued on the basis of Art. 13 of Regulation 883/2004 (persons working in two or more Member States) in 2017 accounted for as much as 36% of all issued declarations, which was tantamount to an increase of 64.4% as compared to 2016.

On the other hand, 1.73 million A1 PDss were issued on the basis of Art. 12 of the Regulation, i.e. on the basis of the provisions applicable to posted workers. Converted into a specific number of employees, these certifications concerned 896,104 employees, since each person has been issued an average of two A1 PDs. This amounted to approximately 0.4% of all workers of the Union, or 0.2% full-time equivalents (FTEs).

Compared to 2016, this means that in 2017, with a lower number of sent persons, more A1 PDs were issued on the basis of Article 12 of Regulation 883/2004, as in 2016 the above-mentioned numbers amounted respectively to 966,939 (estimated number of persons to whom A1 certificates were issued under Article 12 of Regulation 883/2004) and to 0.6% and 0.4%.

EU-15 Member States as countries that send and receive the highest number of posted workers

Regarding posted workers, the countries with the highest number of posted workers received (Art. 12 of the Regulation) in 2017 were invariably Germany (427,175 A1, – 2.9% as compared to 2016), France (241,363 , + 18.9%) and Belgium (167,335 , – 6.2%). 58% of the posting-related certificates were issued in the EU15 States (56% in 2016), while the number of posting-related certificates issued in the other Member States accounted for only 41% of them. This confirms the tendency of a steady increase in the number of workers posted by the EU15, which is contrary to the stereotypical perception that workers are mainly posted from new, less developed Member States. About 85% of postings were still received by EU-15 Member States, though.

Polish construction sector as the largest source of posted workers

The Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) issued the largest number of A1 – exactly 573,358, which accounted for as much as 20.05% of all issued certificates. Germany holds the second place with 399,745 A1 PDs issued in 2017 (14.30%).

Certificates A1 issued by the Polish Social Insurance Institution (ZUS) in 2017 (total number : 573,358)

• On the basis of Art. 12 Regulation 883/2004
Number of A1 PDs issued – 235,836
Number of persons (estimation) – 116,948
• On the basis of Art. 13 Regulation 883/2004
Number of A1 PDs issued – 324,999
Number of persons (estimation) – 268,861
• On the basis of Art. 12 & 13 Regulation 883/2004
Number of A1 PDs issued – 560,835
Number of persons (estimation) – 385,809

The authors noticed that the A1 PDs issued on the basis of Art. 13 by the Polish Social Insurance Institution accounted for 1/3 of all A1 PDs issued on this basis in 2017.

Regarding A1 PDs issued on the basis of Art. 12 of Regulation 883/2004, workers from Poland were mainly posted to Germany (114,979 A1 certificates), to France (28,210) and to Belgium (23,657), and half of these posted workers worked in the construction sector (50.6%). The European average of certificates issued in this sector in 2017 was 46.5%, which does not differ from the data from the previous report for 2016. In the case of Poland this means that Polish posted construction workers accounted for 4.8% of all people employed in this sector in Poland (8% in 2016), while in Slovenia this number was as high as 61.10%!

When it comes to the posting duration, according to the authors of the report, a posted worker from Poland spent about 256 days abroad in 2017 (180 days in 2016), which is significantly lower than the European average, which in 2017 was 191 days (in 2016 it was about 170 days in 2016). From all the above information it can be deduced that although fewer workers were posted from Poland in 2017 compared to 2016, the above mentioned workers were posted more often and spent 42% more time abroad than in 2016.

From the perspective of the hosting Member States, it is worth pointing out that posted workers working in construction in Luxembourg made up as much as 26.4% of all employed people in this sector in the country. For the sake of comparison, this figure is only 4.8% in French construction sector. Foreign construction workers made up also a significant part of people working in this sector in Belgium (20.5% – down from 26.7% in 2016) and in Austria (21%).

A significant increase in the number of A1 PDs issued on the basis of Art. 13 of Regulation 883/2004 in 2017

The number of A1 PDs issued has been rising steadily and permanently for 6 years. From 2011, it has increased by as much as 93%. Regarding the number of A1 PDs issued for posted workers on the basis of Art. 12 of Regulation 883/2004, the very number increased by 6.5% compared to 2016, while the number of A1 PDs issued for persons working in two or more Member States increased by 64%. The report also shows that the largest number of A1 PDs (47%) was still issued in the construction sector.

What next?

On January 15, 2019 the first inter-institutional meeting (trilogue) on the coordination of social security systems (revision of regulations 883/2004 and 987/2009) took place. Negotiations between representatives of the Council, the European Commission and the European Parliament are to decide the shape of the new social security coordination regulations. These issues will be discussed during the VI European Labour Mobility Congress to be held on March 14-15 in Krakow. Registration for the very event is underway.

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