New labour laws in old member states: the impact of the EU enlargements on national labour law systems in Europe

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On 1 May 2004, eight post-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe joined the European Union (EU). They were followed by Bulgaria and Romania on 1 January 2007, and by Croatia on 1 July 2013. In the years since, these enlargements resulted in an increase in the free movement of workers from 'new' to 'old' Member States, which had a visible impact on the labour markets of old Member States. This chapter questions whether increased migration following the enlargements has also had an impact on the labour law systems of four 'old' EU Member States: Austria, Germany, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. These countries are interesting for a number of reasons. The different transitional measures put in place in these Member States allow the countries to be grouped into two categories. On the one hand, Austria and Germany placed heavy restrictions on workers from new Member States entering their labour markets, which were only lifted in 2011 (for the 2004 enlargement) and in 2014 (for the 2007 enlargement) and, in the case of Germany, in 2015 for Croatia. Austria's restrictions on Croatian workers will be maintained until June 2020. In addition, Austria and Germany negotiated and implemented special arrangements for posted workers. Nonetheless, Austria and Germany experienced significant inflows of new Member State workers. Ireland and the United Kingdom immediately opened their labour markets following the 2004 enlargements, and both countries witnessed a substantial increase in the numbers of new Member State workers compared with pre-enlargement levels. Largely as a result, they would each impose transitional measures on Bulgaria and Romania when those states joined the EU, and the United Kingdom would extend those measures to Croatia until June 2018.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMigrant Labour and the Reshaping of Employment Law
EditorsBernard Ryan, Rebecca Zahn
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781509919161, 9781509919154
Publication statusPublished - 20 Apr 2023


  • European Union
  • member states
  • labour law


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