“They’re stealing our jobs!”, it’s been a staple argument of the rise of Trump – but it’s been growing louder in Europe too. Since the mid-90’s foreign workers from within the EU were allowed to work elsewhere in Europe for minimal pay, a new deal is about to put that to an end to that practice.
Foreign workers; Equal Pay or No Game.
A new deal, largely pushed by countries like the Netherlands, has just been agreed upon – though it still needs to pass legislation – that starting 2021 equal work means equal pay. This means quite a change for many, both on an individual and national level.
Especially after the open borders of Schengen, thousands upon thousands of foreign workers – most from Central and Eastern-Europe – traveled to Western-Europe to work in agriculture, construction and logistics for the absolute minimum wage set in the host country (e.g. Germany) with no benefits what so ever. However, for many migrant workers these wages were significantly higher than what could be anticipated back home. As a result it was worth it and many Western-European companies were eager to hire the hard working men and women for bargain prices.
Job Stealing, or is it?
It’s not uncommon today to hear a Polish foreman yell across a construction site for the rest of his crew to get ready for a concrete slab being lowered onto the newest high rise in Amsterdam or a bridge in Rotterdam. On Dutch parking lots Romanian truckers are cooking a quick meal next to their vehicle that is about to embark on a Pan-European trip with Dutch fruit picked by, you guessed it, Bulgarian green house workers.
But their jobs came from somewhere, in many cases they were ‘replacement foreign workers’, Dutch truckers, construction workers and others of equal experience demanded – and were legally entitled to – a higher way and better benefits due to national standards. This meant that for many Western-European companies it was more than profitable to let go of local employees and to hire “in the East”.
As a result many Dutch (and other Western-Europeans) sat at home, unemployed and begrudged – they saw their future wiped away while “foreigners” were building on theirs by stealing their job.
This has lead to real tensions and a growing discomfort both towards the migrant-hiring employers and the government as well as to the migrant-workers themselves who often feel less and less welcome.
Of course, especially the latter, isn’t entirely fair – the migrant workers are simply looking for a better future and working exceedingly hard by legal means for employers doing so – legally.
Effects on the Labour Market.
It’s not yet clear what the effects will be for the EU’s labour market, in fact the agreement doesn’t even cover all of the market and leaves out the transport sector (lucky truckers!), which is a bit unnerving because many struggling companies in the West managed to stay afloat by employing workers from the East.
Lodewijk Asscher however, being Minister of Social Affairs, is very excited to have reached an agreement on this ‘social dumping’ with his fellow EU counterparts after thirteen hours of hard negotiations. Poland and Hungary voted against, understandably, but most of the other member states seem certain. They want change and they are bringing it. What do you think, will this be better or worse for the EU? Are migrant workers stealing jobs or just filling them? Let us know!