Research Programme

The pension rights of intra-EU migrant workers

Paul Bridgen, Traute Meyer, Josh Moran, Roxana Barbulescu

Project summary

When the European Economic Community was founded in 1957, its purpose was a peaceful and stable Europe, and the creation of a common market was considered to be central to achieving this aim. Mobile citizens were constituents of this  common market from the start, and to enable mobility, the Community pledged to remove obstacles workers might face. This was the theory. In practice, it took a long time until more specific rights were introduced, and until today, mobile workers might well be penalised for moving between countries.

This project explores the mobility of social rights in Europe from the perspective of pensions, among the most significant and long-lasting for citizens. In order not to be disadvantaged in comparison with an immobile employee, a mobile worker needs to be able to preserve their pension rights, otherwise citizens who move risk losing their benefits and could face poverty in retirement. It is therefore important to know how the broad guarantees given by the European Communities in 1957 (EC)look from this more detailed perspective.

Empirically the research analyses the institutional arrangements in place to preserve migrants pension rights, and how these vary, especially for non-sate pensions, between the various EU member states. It also uses secondary data analysis to determine the impact of different migrant trajectories on migrants’ income on retirement and, on this basis, assesses the relative feasibility of return and permanent migration. The project’s focus in on the EU countries which have been most involved in intra-EU migration over the last 20 years ie Poland, Romania, Italy, UK, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

Project activities

Date Activity Description
27-28 March 2017 Presentation at a workshop on East Asian Welfare States in the Era of Globalisation and Regionalisation: Institutional Continuities and Changes, held in Taipei. Traute Meyer presents the paper "Democracies, Economies and Social Protection: Understanding Welfare State Development in Asia and Europe".
4-6 July 2016 Presentation at the 2016 SPA Annual Conference held in Belfast. Paul Bridgen presents the paper "Divided citizenship: the financial situation of intra-EU migrants who retire in their host country."
14-16 April 2016 "23rd International Conference of Europeanists" held in Philadelphia. Paul Bridgen presents the paper "Comparing EU Migrants’ Social Rights in Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK" co-authored by Traute Meyer and Roxana Barbulescu. Traute Meyer is Chair for the session "Divergent Citizenship? The Debates About Social Rights for Migrants and Native Citizens in EU Member States"
7-8 May 2015 “Architecture of a sustainable future system of retirement” Annual Conference of the Association of Occupational Pensions, Hotel Maritime, Berlin Conference presentation by Traute  Meyer
25 September 2014 “The third pillar in pensions – do we need a re-appraisal after the financial crisis?” Annual meeting of the Society of Social Progress, Germany Conference presentation by Traute  Meyer
4-6 September 2014 Annual ESPAnet conference 'Beyond the Crisis in Europe - New Opportunities for reconciling sustainability, equality and economic robustness', Oslo Conference presentation on 'The financial pull of home - Do EU migrants have to return to avoid poverty in retirement?'
27-29 August 2014 IMISCOE Annual Conference 'Immigration, Social Cohesion and Social Innovation', Madrid Conference presentation on 'The financial pull of home - Do EU migrants have to return to avoid poverty in retirement?'
11 June 2014 “Reforming public pensions in times of demographic change – policy recommendations”  Financing Public Pension Systems in Times of Demographic Change: increase of retirement age as panacea?, Fudan University, Shanghai Conference presentation by Traute  Meyer
23 May 2014 Pension Research Network, University of Westminster, London Workshop presentation on 'The financial pull of home - Do EU migrants have to return to avoid poverty in retirement?'
11 April 2014 “Pension systems and pension reform in Europe. International lessons?” Invited seminar, Remnin University Seminar presented by Traute Meyer
5 April 2014 “Free Movement? The impact of migration on the pensions of European migrants.” Social Policy Conference, Xiamen University, China Conference presentation by Traute  Meyer


















Bridgen, P. and Meyer, T. (2017) Diminished citizenship: how retirement in the host country affects the financial status of intra-EU migrants. Ageing and Society, 1-23.

Meyer, T. (2016) Democracies, Economics and Social Protection. Freidrich Ebert Foundation Policy Paper, Office for Regional Cooperation in Asia, Germany.

Meyer, T., Bridgen, P. and Andow, C. (2013),Free Movement? The impact of legislation, benefit generosity and wages on pensions of European migrants  Population, Space and Place, – Special Issue, 19 (6), 714-726.

Media activities

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