Research Programme

Free movement, pension costs: the projected pension outcomes of European Union migrants to Britain in comparative perspective

Paul Bridgen, Traute MeyerCaroline Andow

Project summary


This project aims to develop a simulation model to assess the impact of migration on future pension rights for a range of typical migrant workers. Its plan is to establish a limited number of life courses, based on current available data about demographic and socioeconomic status of migrant workers. In addition, the regulatory framework for dealing with the pension rights of these workers is being analysed, taking into consideration the interaction between the migrant’s home pension system and that of the host country.

Little attention has been paid to how EU enlargement has increased the importance of labour mobility issues, and few studies have tested EU regulations designed to ensure migrant workers do not lose out in relation to public pension provision. Very little is known about migrant workers’ entitlement to non-state provision, which is regulated at member state level. This project aims to fill these gaps.


The project uses Eurostat and OECD data to measure migration. Likely pension incomes are calculated based on comparison of the pension outcomes of the migrant biographies. The operation of current EU policy arrangements is also being assessed. The project team have also begun to compile a database of standard practice on non-state pension mobility.


The project is still on-going, however using the Eurostat and OECD data, the project has determined the scale of the pension mobility problem posed by migrant labour. It has identified migration from Eastern Europe to the West following EU enlargement as a major new challenge for the EU, given relatively small levels of labour mobility before the mid-1990s.

To test EU regulations in the face of this new challenge, the project has begun the task of establishing exemplar biographies, by nationality and income type. These will be used at a later stage of the project to calculate the pension costs of migration using policy simulation.

Through the use of country experts in a number of exemplar countries, the project has begun to compile a database of standard practice on non-state pension mobility, establishing which regulations, if any, are in place to ensure that non-state pension rights are preserved when citizens leave a country either temporarily or permanently.



Bridgen, P. and Meyer, T. (2011) ‘New pension policy settlements and their impact for German and British citizens’, In Clasen, J. (ed.) Converging worlds of welfare? German and British social policy in the 21st Century. Oxford, GB, Oxford University Press, 180-217. 

Bridgen, P. and Meyer, T. (2011) Exhausted voluntarism - the evolution of the British liberal pension regime. In, Ebbinghaus, B. (ed.) Varieties of Pension Governance: the Privatization of Pensions in Europe. Oxford, GB, Oxford University Press, 265-292.


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