EU lifts restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian workers: good or bad news for the German labour market?

As of January 1, 2014, Romanians and Bulgarians have been granted the right to take up work in any of the European Union`s 28 countries. This lifting of work restrictions has prompted widespread fears of an “invasion” onto the employment markets of some of the EU member states, including Germany. In Germany, the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party of Angela Merkel`s Christian Democrats and part of the current government, also raised concerns about “social benefits fraud”. However, the majority of German employers and German nationals see the extension of the free movement of persons as an opportunity for Germany.

The government recently responded to a request from the opposition group “Die Linke” relating to the expected impact of the lifting of restrictions on the German labour market. According to its statement, the government does not anticipate major effects on the labour market. Of the Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants living in Germany in July 2013, only 0.3% were receiving social benefits. It remains to be seen how things may be different now that the rules have changed. Due to demographic shifts, Germany is in dire need of skilled workers and is likely to welcome them from any EU country. However, if the pessimists are proved right, in time we expect to see the German government cracking down on social benefits fraud.