Fighting undeclared work – #EU4FAIRWORK – #Rights4AllSeasons

At EU and international level many organisations, organisms and agencies are engaged in fighting, analysing and monitoring undeclared work.

The European Commission, the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the European Labour Authority (ELA), the European Union information agency for occupational safety and health (EU-OSHA) support countries in collecting data, laying down policy measures, planning informative campaigns, putting in place schemes and initiatives to make the transition to declared work possible:


At EU level, undeclared work is defined as “any paid activities that are lawful as regards their nature, but not declared to public authorities, taking into account differences in the regulatory systems of the Member States”.

Moreover, there are four European strategic priorities to tackle undeclared work:

  1. cooperation and joint action
  2. mutual learning  
  3. increasing knowledge
  4. communication and reporting

Undeclared work may come in different forms

  • The most common type is work carried out in a formal undertaking, partially or fully undeclared. Partially undeclared work is sometimes also called “under-declared work“, “envelope wages” or “cash-in-hand“;
  • Another type is undeclared “own account” or self-employed work, where self-employed persons provide services either to a formal enterprise or to other clients, such as households;
  • Undeclared work occurs in all kind of economic sectors, both within countries and across borders. It is often carried out in sectors like construction, renovation or repair works, gardening, cleaning, provision of childcare, domestic and personal assistance or HORECA (Hotel / Restaurant / Catering – food services).
from #EU4FAIRWORK campaign – author: Giulia Cobol, Trieste (Italy)

Undeclared work is everybody’s problem

Within each Country, the main responsibility for tackling undeclared work lies with national authorities. The fight against undeclared work relies mostly on three types of enforcement bodies:

  • Labour inspectorates addressing abusive behaviour regarding working conditions and/or health and safety norms;
  • Social security inspectorates fighting fraud on social insurance contributions;
  • Tax authorities dealing with tax evasion.

Additionally, in some Member States, social partners are also involved in these tasks, as well as customs authorities, migration bodies, the police and the public prosecutor’s office.

Within the last ten years, all Member States introduced various measures to step up their efforts in the fight against undeclared work, given its negative consequences. Most of them are in the area of deterrence measures to influence people’s behaviour with stricter sanctions or focusing on more effective inspections. In addition, Member States use preventive measures such as

  • tax incentives
  • amnesties
  • awareness raising

to decrease the incidence of undeclared work and facilitate compliance with existing rules.

EURADRIA partnership stands by workers and employers to combat undeclared: the cross-border context

As of 2019, Euradria has decided to dedicate a space to collecting data on undeclared work in the border region between Italy and Slovenia, in order to better understand the extent of the phenomenon.

At the end of the same year, a specific analysis has been conducted by INCA Slovenija, a patronage already partner of the project, thorugh the support of the InfoDesks network and the Public Employment Services within the recruitment events.

In particular, an anonymous questionnaire has been made available to jobseekers and frontier workers to collect a first set of data to identify:

  • the target group composition (gender, age, residence, education level)
  • the sectors where the main violations occur
  • the responsibility for irregular work (employer’s responsibility or own choice?).

The questionnaire involved 300 workers, moving across the cross-border area for labour purposes, as jobseekers and frontier workers.

The data collection, included in a final report on irregular work has been publicly presented in Koper (Slovenija) on 18 December 2019, showing the following results:

  • in respect of RESIDENCE:
from Italy 25%
from Slovenia56%
from other countries (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo)19%
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – RESIDENCE

  • in respect of GENDER:
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – GENDER

  • in respect of AGE:
15-34 years19%
35-49 years52%
aged 50+29%
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – AGE

Low (as ISCED level 1)9%
Medium (as ISCED levels 2, 3, 4, 5)80%
High (as ISCED levels 6, 7, 8)11%
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – ISCED

  • in respect of the reported WORKING CONDITION (also as a past experience):
Missing answer 23%
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – DECLARED WORKING CONDITION

  • in respect of the reported SECTORS and PROFESSIONAL PROFILES:
Construction (NACE F)– Bricklayers
– Welders
– General construction workers
– Tilers
– Electricians
– Plumbers
Domestic staff; activities of households (NACE T)– Babysitters
– Domestic workers/helpers
– Personal carers and assistants
Agriculture, forestry and fishing (NACE A)– Seasonal workers
– Occasional jobs
– Gardeners
Accomodation and food service activities (NACE I)– Chefs/Cooks
– Bartenders
– Dishwashers
Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (NACE G)– Shop assistants
– Mechanics
– Tyre repairer
– Coachbuilder
Transportation and storage (NACE H)– Warehouse workers
– Truck drivers
– Drivers
Human health and social work activities (NACE Q)– Nurses
Other service activities (NACE S)– Hair dressers
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – SECTORS AND PROFESSIONAL PROFILES
– Earnings
– Pension
– Uneployment allowance
– Unemployment
– Double work
– Occasional work
– On-call work
– Can‘t find a regular job
– Work experience is required
– Partial application (20-40 hours and more)
– Residence permit
– Replacing a colleague
– Agreement with the employer
– Pending contract
Here an overview on the reasons/motivations for working undeclared, as stated by the interviewed workers and jobseekers, also based on their personal opinions regarding the “perceived convenience” of working undeclared (don’t lose benefits, lower taxation,…)
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – REASONS GIVEN FOR IRREGULAR WORK

Beside those most relevant sectors and professional profiles, other minors have been detected: education, security, cleaning, insurance, real estate, industry. As for the professional profiles: call center operators, bank workers, night porters, janitors/keepers, and also a doctor in Languages.

– Minimum wage
– Working hours
– Irregular payments
– Overtime, especially night work
– Fixed-term contracts, renewals
– Collaboration contracts
– Wage inequality (Maritime/Naval sector)
– “Special” non-conventional rules within specific sectors (e.g.: construction and “construction working week”, where in case of bad weather you dont work, without payment)
– Illness, termination
Here an overview on the most common violations reported by the interviewed workers, based on their own experience
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – MOST COMMON VIOLATIONS OF THE EMPLOYER

Finally, a more general questions on the knowledge of the European regulations on undeclared work and on how to report illegal work and who to contact for the protection of your rights:

Do you know the EU labor law legislation?Do you know how to report illegal work and who to contact for the protection of your rights?
Yes 23% Yes 51%
No 77% No 49%
Data collection report on irregular work 18.12.2019 INCA SLO (VP/2018/007) – EU LEGISLATION AND RIGHTS

The questionnaire is still available and accessible through the one-stop-shop portal Have Your Say.

It is available in Italian and Slovenian (english version coming soon).

The questionnaire is anonymous.

If you would like to contribute giving us a feedback on your own experience, please click on the following buttons: