International Coordination

1.   Within a day by day more globalized society, barriers erected by physical borders and national legislations loose sense as a result of the increasing migration and workforce relocation. This situation shall entail the need for the international coordination of the social right in order to foster public employees’ mobility by ensuring them an effective social protection and thus guaranteeing free movement of workers.

2.    For this purpose, national social protection systems are the object of international coordination agreements to ensure a coordinated and consistent application of national legislations, without interfering with its substance and autonomy. On the one hand, at international level the social security systems coordination covers healthcare and corresponding systems; on the other hand, at national level the healthcare and social security/social protection areas are separated.

3.    The social protection international coordination process is based on the following basic principles:

  • Equal treatment, first and key coordination objective, establishes that migrants employees be subject to social protection legislation and benefit from it in the same conditions as the host country national employees;
  • Determination of the applicable legislation;
  • Retention of rights in the process of being acquired, substantiates all insurance periods or equivalent completed under several national legislations enabling to re-establish the unity of the employees’ contribution period;
  • Retention of acquired rights.

4.    Portugal has concluded social security bilateral agreements with many countries that, as a rule, encompass the social security general scheme. Such coordination is carried out by community regulations within the European Union (EU) scope.

5.    Bilateral agreements have started to include the public employees’ social protection special schemes of signatory countries only in the last few years. At EU level the community regulations application has been extended, as from 1998, to the different member states public employees’ special schemes and therefore such coordination also applies to the convergent social protection scheme.

6.    Taking into consideration the particular relevance that the social protection international coordination takes on as essential condition to an effective implementation of the free movement of workers enshrined in the European Treaties, the European Parliament and Council have been introducing changes in the 1971 and 1972 passed regulations having adopted two new Community regulations in force since 1 May 2010. Portugal in the quality of member state applies such regulations that consist on the social security systems coordination basic regulation and on application modalities of such regulation, by defining for all parties’ concerned procedures for the concrete application of norms. This new regulations are supplemented with a set of decisions and recommendations adopted by the Administrative Commission for the Social Security Systems Coordination.

  • Regulation (EC) No 883/2004 of 29 April 2004 (as amended by Regulation (EC) No 988/2009) on social security systems coordination, which forms the basic regulation;    

  • Regulation (EC) No 987/2009, of September 16, 2009, which lays down the basic regulation implementation procedures, defining for all parties involved the concrete application procedures of its rules.

6.1.    The 1971 and 1972 regulations continue to be provisionally applied in specific well-defined situations.

6.2.    In the Portuguese case the application of regulations shall be implemented by the competent entities which are as follows:

    • Social Security institutions in relation to the social security general scheme’s beneficiaries
    • In relation to the convergent social protection scheme, the Secretariats-General or equivalent or departments that in each service fulfil management and human resources administration functions regarding illness, maternity, paternity and adoption (parenthood) unemployment, accidents at work and occupational diseases as well as family benefits eventualities; Public Employees’ Special Pension Scheme (CGA) regarding invalidity, old age and death eventualities as well as benefits for permanent incapacity or death resulting from accidents at work or occupational disease;
    • Health care are provided by official health services to all persons irrespective of the social protection scheme through which they are covered. The State Health Care System (ADSE in portuguese) and other Public Administration subsystems are responsible for the expenses incurred by the respective beneficiaries, when they are relocated in any of the countries covered by regulations.

7.    The new regulations are based on principles, which aim to make a more effective and closer cooperation between member states:

  • Cooperation obligation reinforcement among member states authorities and institutions in order to always find a solution for every situation;
  • Obligation to inform persons and institutions with a view to a proper application of rules, ensuring an answer to all requests within a reasonable time.

Each member state has its own liaison service with the Administrative Commission, which is the member state competent authority assigned entity to answer to information and assistance requests for the regulations application purposes.

Regarding Portugal such a role is played by the Directorate-General for Social Security that coordinates the convergent social protection scheme with the Directorate-General for Administration and Public Employment (DGAEP) along with the services that ensure the concrete application of different benefits as to aspects related to their corresponding specific competencies.