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Unemployment insurance in Europe

Big difference in Unemployment insurance schemes

There are big differences in the way different EU countries have organised unemployment benefits and other social security services.

Each EU country has its own laws determining:

  • what benefits you're entitled to, how much you'll receive and for how long
  • how long you must work there before qualifying for unemployment benefits, the rules for calculating benefits and the duration of the benefits.

EU rules only determine which country's social security covers you when 2 or more countries are involved.

As a rule, you're covered by the legislation of just 1 country at a time and only pay contributions in that country; you should be treated the same as nationals of that country.

EU Social Security Coordination

The EU provides common rules to protect your social security rights when moving within Europe (EU 28 + Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). The rules on social security coordination do not replace national systems with a single European one. All countries are free to decide who is to be insured under their legislation, which benefits are granted and under what conditions.

Who do these rules apply to?

The four main principles

  • You are covered by the legislation of one country at a time so you only pay contributions in one country. The decision on which country's legislation applies to you will be made by the social security institutions. You cannot choose.
    Find out which rules apply to you.
  • You have the same rights and obligations as the nationals of the country where you are covered. This is known as the principle of equal treatment or non-discrimination.
  • When you claim a benefit, your previous periods of insurance, work or residence in other countries are taken into account if necessary.
  • If you are entitled to a cash benefit from one country, you may generally receive it even if you are living in a different country. This is known as the principle of exportability.

We have made description of all EEA countries and what kind of unemployment insurance system they provide, especially with focus on your rights to unemployment benefits in the particular country.


European Commission and national authorities dealing with unemployment insurance.

This page was last updated on February 15, 2020.

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