Survey examines migration intentions post-accession

The latest BBSS Gallup International survey on migration attitudes reveals that Bulgarian migrants pose little threat to the EU labour market. Estimates of the expected migration flow show that around 48,000 Bulgarians aged between 15 and 60 years have either some intention or a definite plans to work and live abroad. People who declare that they would prefer to work/study and live abroad amount to 3.1% of the population in this age group, while those who wish to work or study abroad for more than a year but intend to return to live in Bulgaria represent 2.5% of citizens in this age group.

The BBSS Gallup International (BBSS Gallup) national representative survey entitled ‘Emigration attitudes’ (1Mb MS PowerPoint file), which was carried out in August 2006, aims to collect reliable information about attitudes to emigration among the adult population, particularly in light of Bulgaria’s forthcoming EU accession on 1 January 2007. The Bulgarian Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Emilia Maslarova, presented the preliminary findings of the survey at the United Nations (UN) general assembly on ‘High-level dialogue on international migration and development’, held on 14–15 September 2006.

In her statement (60Kb PDF), Minister Maslarova explained that the migration behaviour of Bulgarian citizens is comparable to the behaviour of the average EU citizen. This is a direct result of Bulgaria’s stable economy and low unemployment rate, amounting to 8.76% in August 2006. Minister Maslarova declared: ‘As an external border of the EU from January 2007 on, Bulgaria is interested in the creation of instruments for the integrated management of migration processes. In this regard, we are ready for cooperation at all levels in compliance with common EU policy and practice’.

In October 2006, a conference on the ‘European social model and the challenges facing Bulgaria’, organised by the Economic and Social Council of Bulgaria (ESC) and the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), focused on issues such as labour market policies and mobility of workers (BG0610029I).

Main findings of survey

The findings and estimates of the Gallup International Survey for Bulgaria reveal the following:

  • Some 10,000–12,000 people intend to work in another EU country over the next three years.
  • During the first year of EU membership, from 1 January 2007, about 4,000–4,400 people are prepared to work in another EU Member State.
  • The preferred destination of all potential emigrants is Spain (20%), followed by Germany and Italy (13%), the UK (11%), US (9%), Greece and France (6%), Turkey (4%) and Canada (3%).
  • The preferred economic activities of all potential emigrants are: services and tourism (17%); manufacturing (14%); construction (13%); agriculture (12%); commerce and sport (5%). At the same time, 28% of people do not have any preferences.
Estimates of migration flow, 2001 and 2006
Estimates of migration flow, 2001 and 2006
People 2001 2006
Total 48,900–61,100 45,700–50,000
- number of labour emigrants 28,200–35,300 20,100–22,000
- number of labour emigrants to EU 20,700–25,900 14,800–16,800
Within one year – total 12,500–15,700 12,300–13,500
- number of labour emigrants 7,400–9,300 5,400–5,900
- number of labour emigrants to EU 5,500–6,800 4,000–4,400
Next 2–3 years – total 24,000–29,900 18,800–20,500
- number of labour emigrants 13,700–17,100 8,200–9,000
- number of labour emigrants to EU 10,000–12,600 6,000–6,600
More distant future – total 12,400–15,500 14,700–6,100
- number of labour emigrants 7,100–8,900 6,400–7,000
- number of labour emigrants to EU 5,200–6,500 4,700–5,200

Notes: All figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. ‘Labour emigrants’ are those who intend to return to live in Bulgaria after a period of time spent abroad, in contrast to ‘settlers’ – people who declare their intention to live and work abroad permanently.

Source: BBSS GALLUP International, Emigration attitudes, 2006

Comparisons with data from 2001 population census

Comparisons with the 2001 National Statistical Institute (NSI) population census data reveal the following trends (see Table above):

  • almost the same overall level of emigration attitudes/intentions in 2001 as in 2006, with about 30% of people expressing some intention of moving abroad and 70% of people having no intention of doing so;
  • a decline in the long-term migration group, representing those who intend to go abroad for more than a year, with an almost 50% decrease in numbers in the labour emigrants’ subgroup, namely those who prefer to return to live in Bulgaria after a period of time spent abroad;
  • an increasing level of short-term migration, up by 4%;
  • no significant changes in the socio-demographic characteristics of potential emigrants compared with 2001 data: men still prevail over women; most of the potential emigrants are younger people, aged up to 40 years old, and mainly up to 30 years old; people with secondary education are more predominant, but there is an increase in the number of emigrants with lower education due to the strong presence of the ethnic Roma population;
  • the main reasons for emigration continue to be better wages, higher living standards, improved employment prospects and better education opportunities.

Figure: Emigration motives, comparison between 2001 and 2006 (%)

bg0610069i.tmp00.jpg

Note: Based on all emigrants who are likely to stay abroad for more than one month.

Source: BBSS Gallup International, Emigration attitudes, 2006

Conclusions

Estimates of migration patterns reveal that around 48,000 Bulgarians aged between 15 and 60 years have either some intention or a more definite plan to work and live abroad. People who declare that they would prefer to work or study and live abroad – ‘settlers’ – amount to 3.1% of the population in this age group and those who wish to work or study abroad for more than a year, but plan to return to live in Bulgaria – ‘labour emigrants’ – represent 2.5% of citizens in this age group. The declared migration intentions and plans show that Bulgarian immigrants do not greatly affect the overall EU labour market. According to the statistics, the employed population in Bulgaria constitutes just 1.5% of the 200 million workers in the EU25 labour market.

The data prove that the recent debates, concerns and forecasts regarding the wave of Bulgarian immigrants in some EU countries and the measures undertaken by these countries to close their labour markets are not well founded. Instead, governments should take into account the advantages that new migrants will generate for the current EU labour markets. Indeed, the challenges to the Bulgarian labour market will be far higher due to the imbalances caused by the resulting ‘brain drain’ – the emigration of highly qualified workers – as well as by the emigration of less qualified workers.

Nadezhda Daskalova, Institute for Social and Trade Union Research (ISTUR)

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