Under Pressure? – Swedish Residence-Based Social Security and EU Citizenship

Date01 June 2016
Published date01 June 2016
Subject MatterArticle
European Jour nal of Social Sec urity, Volume 18 (2016), No. 2 207
T  E *
is article analyses the impact of free movement of persons on Swedish residence-
based social security in the area s of old-age pensions, health care and social assistanc e.
Since becoming a member of the EU in 1995 Sweden has made both minor and larger
adaptations of various residence concepts in social security law.  e article describes
these legislative changes and ana lyses the practical implications for migration as well as
whether the changes have had a deepe r impact on values in Swedish social security.  e
analysis shows that the Swedish legislator and courts are struggling to str ike a balance
between residence-based soc ial security and free movement of persons. An early − and
also a major − change was to turn the guarantee- level pension into a pro-rata scheme.
To follow up the consequences of this, a special non- contributory bene t had to be
introduced to prevent an in ow o f a ppl ica nt s in to s oc ial as si sta nc e. H owe ve r, th is ben e t
has proved to be vulnerable to mobility.  e implementation of Directive 20 04/38 was
made without any real changes of social security legislation. At a later stage this led
to di culties in the application of the various residence-concepts in Swedish law.  e
legislator is now using var ious techniques to improve access to residence-based bene ts
and, at the same time, ensure a minimum coverage for migrants to en sure that the basic
values of Swedish social security a s well as international obligations are ful lled.
Keywords: EUcitizens; residence-based bene ts; residence concept; r ight to residence;
Sweden; universal welfare
Residence forms the basis of social security in Sweden as well a s in other Nordic
countries and there is a long tradition of de ning the legal concept of residence for
* Associate Profes sor of Public Law and Head of t he Department of L aw, School of Business,
Economics and Law, Universit y of Göteborg. Addre ss: Vasagatan 1, 40530 Göteb org, Sweden;
phone: Phone: +46 31 786 5189; email: thoma s.erhag@law.gu.se.
omas Erhag
208 Intersentia
social security purposes. Since becoming a member of the EU in 1995 Sweden has
adopted various modi cations to national social secur ity legislation in order to adapt
to EUlaw, this being a policy  eld of national competence. European integration has
obviously had an impact on the interpretat ion and understanding of the Swedish legal
concept of residence .1
During the last ten years there have been evident tensions between the residence
concept in EU law triggered by t he implementation of Directive 2004/38 and by
Regulation 883/2004.  e implementation of the Directive created a new status of
right to residence for EUcitizens in the Swedish Al iens Act, ‘uppehåll srätt’, but le
social security and socia l assistance law untouched. However, application of the
non-discrimination principle in EUlaw has revealed di cu lties in the application
of Swedish law. One example is provided by the problematic approach from public
authorities towards the lega l status of EUcitizens coming to Sweden, and the ques tion
of how to limit the scope of Swedish welfare law is now under investigation by a
is article describes and analyses how the concept of residence has come under
pres sure f rom EUl aw and f ree mov ement of person s. Fir st, so me exa mples of proble m
areas concerning the application of residence-based schemes and how changes have
been made in Swedish law as reactions to EUlaw are outl ined.
Universality can be understood in many ways but refers to the discussion of welfare
regimes in socia l policy in which Gösta Esping-Andersen has been very importa nt
not the least for the intuitive simplicity of his well-known ty pology.3 Universa lity in
this context is represented by the social democratic welfare regime – characterised
by general social security schemes that are administered by public authorities – the
management of the schemes is the responsibil ity of the state.  e bene ts in this
regime are citizenship/residence-based basic bene ts combined with income-related
bene ts that are capped at a c ertain level, a level that should provide su cient income
protection for the vast majority of recipients. Social services , such as health care, are
managed as tax- nanced public serv ices. Taxes and bene ts are individualised and
women have a high level of labour market participat ion. Social policy has redist ributive
e ects.
1 C (1997), E (2002), P  (2015:134, 256)  S (200 0). See also
C-275/96 Kuusijärvi.
2 Utredningen om svensk socia l trygghet i en int ernationell värld S 2014:17.
3 E-A (1989).

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