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2014 - CEED Report: Migration in the 21st century from the perspective of CEE countries – an opportunity or a threat?

2014 - CEED Report: Migration in the 21st century from the perspective of CEE countries – an opportunity or a threat?

Migration in the 21st century from the perspective of CEE countries – an opportunity or a challenge?

The European Union enlargements that took place in the 21st century resulted in employment migrations within the Community on a much larger scale than had been expected by experts, despite introduction of transitional periods in free movement of workers.

The estimates developed on the basis of Eurostat data suggest that the number of emigrants from EU-10 states increased between 2004 and 2012 by approximately 1.7 million, up to 5.6 million people. The greatest change dynamics was recorded in two Baltic states: Latvia and Lithuania, where the number of nationals residing in EU-15 member states grew by over 400 per cent in the period 2004-2012. The smallest dynamics was recorded in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. In those two states the growth amounted to several dozen per cent in the studied period.

Table: Estimates of the number of citizens of CEE countries residing in EU-15 countries and the related percentage change.[1]

Source: Own calculation based on: Population by sex, age group and citizenship – Eurostat and D. Holland et al, Labour mobility within the EU: the impact of enlargement and transitional arrangements, NIESR Discussion Paper no. 379, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, London 2011.

On the basis of the analysis of the migration scale and potential, CEE countries have been divided into three groups:

- States with high emigration potential: Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia and Romania.

- States with moderate emigration potential: Bulgaria, Poland, Estonia, Slovakia.

- States with low emigration potential: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia.

Most experts envisaged that returns would happen after the emigration wave, thus decreasing the number of the nationals of particular states residing abroad and reducing the risk of negative consequences in the context of demographic processes. Unfortunately, the analyses concerning return migrations have demonstrated that so far the scenarios assuming emergence of waves of return migrations, as a consequence of the attainment of migration targets, have failed to materialise.

Table: Return migrants and their share in the total immigration.

Source: Own calculation based on: Immigration by sex, age group and citizenship - Eurostat

The situation outlined above generates questions of to what extent the migrations we are dealing with inside the EU affect the development potential of CEE countries, including their competitiveness and demographic future? And if yes, is this impact positive or negative? In the context of migrations it must be pointed out, first of all, that in the forthcoming years CEE region will face demographic challenges unprecedented in their past history. Migrations, particularly the permanent ones, will aggravate the already negative scenarios concerning the ageing of the societies or fertility rate of women (the ability to recover population potential).

Table: Population changes in EU-10 states from 2010 to 2060.

Source: Own calculation based on: Population projections - Eurostat

It seems that the future impact of migration on demographic situation will be greater than the effects of pro-family policies targeted at increasing the fertility rate!

Simultaneously the migrations from CEE countries have a significant modernising value, mainly realised through remittances from abroad and acquisition of occupational and social skills unavailable or with restricted availability in the emigration countries, or by creating space for those who stayed in the states of origin (the phenomenon of so-called “rarefaction”), which provides better opportunities, for example to those who remained in the labour market.

Table: Remittances from emigrants going to the states of origin (million euro[2])

Source: Elaborated by the authors on the basis of OECD International Migration Outlook 2013 and The World Bank, Bilateral Remittance Estimates for 2012 and Migrant Remittances Inflows – (Source Data in USD).

The political debate concerning the consequences of employment migrations within the EU for receiving states adds to the situation outlined above. This debate results in proposals to restrict freedom to undertake employment in the Community, and consequently to restrict the rights of employment migrants.

The picture of migration within the EU would be incomplete without description of the process of immigration into CEE countries of nationals of third, i.e. non-EU, countries. This is particularly important for the states that transform their status from typical emigration into emigration-immigration one. Unfortunately the attractiveness of CEE region to receive immigrants remains moderate. The public opinion, which fails to see benefits from immigration, is also not conducive for a change of the migration policy into a more liberal one.

The consequences of migrations taking place in the 21st century outlined above and the related future challenges, provoked a redesign of the outline of migration processes from the CEE countries and their critical assessment. This concerns mainly the analyses of the consequences of employment migrations realised under free movement of workers and the attractiveness of the labour markets of the region’s states to draw immigrants. Those analyses provided the basis for recommendations of solutions whose introduction in CEE countries would help respond to the challenges as regards economic competitiveness and demographic processes, and help take advantage of the opportunities related to migrations.



[1] Data refers to the total usually resident population of the reporting country on 1 January each year.

[2] Exchange rate 1 EURO = 1,286 USD

Migration in the 21st century from the perspective of CEE countries – an opportunity or a