Labour inspection in Europe: undeclared work, migration, trafficking

This report was prepared by LAB/ADMIN team as reference document for a meeting held in Budapest (29-30 October 2009) on labour inspection and undeclared work migration and trafficking in Europe. It highlights some of the different labour inspection measures taken in law and practice by the EU countries and it is based in part on a questionnaire filled out by participants prior to the event. A series of guidelines were prepared and endorsed by the experts based on the discussions with the hope that they will assist labour inspectorates and policy makers as they work toward developing more effective and better coordinated labour inspection responses to the phenomenon of undeclared work.

Undeclared work is a complex phenomenon. Any attempt to counter this pattern of employment requires an equally sophisticated and balanced approach between prevention and law enforcement. The purpose of this report is to consider the particular role that national labour administrations and especially labour inspectorates have as part of a strategic policy response to undeclared work.
Undeclared work has a strong connection to migration. In many cases, migrant workers - particularly migrants with an irregular or unauthorized status – are recruited into undeclared work. They thus become vulnerable and subject to lower level standards. Demands that labour inspectorates cooperate in enforcing immigration law may, however, compromise the core function of labour inspector. At the same time, migration issues have to be taken into account when considering how labour inspectorates can contribute to preventing and regularizing undeclared work.
However labour inspectorates commonly lack the necessary resources, tools, procedures and coordination with other relevant administrative authorities to identify, prevent and remedy such cases. In particular, labour inspectorates face practical obstacles in planning and carrying out visits since undeclared work is by its nature hidden and not easily detected.
As the report indicates, many European countries have adopted different approaches in collaboration with their labour inspection services to discourage and sanction undeclared work. The report deals also with issues of labour migration and trafficking. It includes a set of guidelines for improving the ability of labour inspectorates to address undeclared work in Europe.