Eurofound News April 2007

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Low levels of migration predicted

Most Europeans have no intention of moving to another country or to another region within their own country, according to a forthcoming report by Eurofound which sets out workers’ possible intentions regarding migration. Less than 10% of the working age population intends to move to another region within the next five years and just 5% intends to move to another country.

In most – if not all – EU Member States, the public debate is focused on whether or not borders should be opened to allow the free movement of workers, and on the effects of the free movement of workers. Will there be a massive migration of people all over Europe, particularly from new Member States to the former EU15 countries, signalling a geographical shift from eastern to western Europe?

Mobility intentions higher in the new EU Member States

Eurofound’s forthcoming report, Determinants of international and regional migration intentions in Europe, finds that only 8.6% of the working-age population intends to move to another region within the next five years, while 5.4% intends to move to another country. The report, based on data from a Eurobarometer Survey carried out September 2005, sets out to map the possible plans of Europeans to move to other EU Member States and investigates the main factors behind the intention to migrate. The research shows that mobility intentions are greater in the new Member States – compared to the former EU15 countries – although the variations between countries are large: Poland and the Baltic States display higher levels of migration intentions than other countries. The report concludes that mobility intentions have increased in the new Member States, compared to that in the former EU15 countries, between 2001 and 2005.

Educated and qualified persons most likely to migrate

The persons most likely to migrate within the EU are the highly educated, the well-qualified and students, according to the report. The potential risk of ‘brain-drain’ from countries like Poland and the Baltic States, since these countries display the highest levels of migration intentions, is relatively high. Given the large populations of some of the countries with relatively high levels of migration intentions, such as Poland, the report states that ‘it is conceivable that large numbers will indeed cross the borders’.

Improving labour market opportunities at home

Not everybody who expresses the intention to migrate will actually do so. Existing social ties and socio-cultural differences are major barriers to cross-border migration, even if less so in new Member States. Moreover, fertility rates in the new Member States have declined in the past decade, while mortality rates have increased, leading to better labour market opportunities at home. The report suggests this might result in a reduced readiness to migrate to the former EU15 countries. Also, increased foreign direct investment in the new Member States, coupled with regional and structural funds will result in improved working and living conditions and, thereby, reduced incentives to migrate. The report will be published later in the month.

Download the report (forthcoming)

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