26 Sep 2016

The Legal and Operational Feasibility of a European Unemployment Benefits Scheme at the National Level

Michael Coucheir / Grega Strban / Harald Hauben

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Authors: Michael Coucheir, Grega Strban and Harald Hauben

Series: CEPS Special Report No. 145   No of pp: 100

The objective of this paper is to investigate the legal and operational feasibility of a European unemployment benefits scheme (EUBS) as a specific form of supranational automatic stabiliser. This investigation forms part of a broader multidisciplinary analysis of the EUBS, encompassing inter alia a study of its compatibility with the EU Treaties and, using macro- and micro-simulations, the value added of the EUBS in terms of stabilisation and social outcomes.

Through an examination of how the EUBS would articulate with national legal and administrative frameworks in the EU member states, this paper seeks to identify the main legal and operational barriers to the introduction of such a scheme. The paper draws on input from social security experts in all member states, which was collected by means of a questionnaire.

Focusing on the ‘genuine’ EUBS scheme, the paper identifies several challenges associated with its introduction. These are largely the result of three characteristics of national unemployment benefit regulations, i.e. their complexity, their diversity and their interrelation with broader areas of national socio-economic regulation.

The research shows that introducing a genuine EUBS would require substantial legal reforms at the national level. Moreover, its operation would inevitably entail a degree of additional administrative effort and complexity. That being said, it is notable that some countries would encounter more challenges – whether of a legal, operational or political nature – than others. Furthermore, it is apparent that the definition of EUBS parameters has a significant impact on the feasibility of the scheme.

This report was prepared in the context of a research project on “The Feasibility and Added Value of a European Unemployment Benefits Scheme”, commissioned by DG EMPL of the European Commission and carried out by a consortium of researchers led by CEPS. It is re-published by CEPS with the kind permission of the European Commission.

Michael Coucheir is Senior Advisor, Social Protection at Eftheia, Brussels; Grega Strban is Professor and Vice Dean at the Department of Labour Law and Social Security Law at the University of Ljubljana; and Harald Hauben is Managing Partner at Eftheia. The authors wish to acknowledge the contribution by Carlos Garcia de Cortazar, Deputy Director for Social Affairs, Education, Culture, Health and Consumers at the Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation.