Demographic Characteristics of Intra-EU Movers

It has been suggested that free movement within the EU is particularly availed of by the highly educated (Favell 2008). We therefore investigate the demographic characteristics of those who move within Europe, focusing on selected cases and the period 2008–2011. Contrasting these cases, for which we have detailed information, suggests the diversity of migration flows and motives within Europe. Obviously this analysis does not do justice to more recent moves from Southern Europe to NorthWestern Europe, but data to make similar analyses are not yet at hand.

We start with characteristics of those who move. Figure 3.4 shows population pyramids for Polish migrants heading to Germany and vice versa. As we demonstrated previously (see Fig. 3.2), Polish-German migration is the most prominent intra-European migration flow in absolute numbers. The population pyramids are indicative of the trend in the preceding years. Mobility between both countries is clearly dominated by men, particularly those between 20 and 50 years of age. This strongly male-dominated movement of Polish workers towards Germany appears temporary, as a similar population moves back again (compare Fig. 3.4a and b).

When we compare Polish migration to Germany with Polish migration to the Netherlands, we find a different panorama (Fig. 3.5). Polish migrants in the Netherlands are significantly younger, the majority being between 20 and 35 years of age. Moreover, there is a more equal gender balance. The coincidence of these migration flows with other life transitions, such as having children and forming a union, is crucial to gain insight into the way intra-European mobility develops over the life course.

Recent research on Polish migrants based on Dutch population registers shows that having children as well as the choice of partner are important determinants of permanent settlement (Kleinepier et al. 2015). Similar findings have been reported on intra-EU migrant groups in other destinations such as Belgium and the UK (see, e.g., Levrau et al. 2014; Ryan and Mulholland 2013). Where generally circular and return migration of intra-EU movers is high, this seems especially so for those who are young, single, and do not have children (see, e.g., Bijwaard 2010; Braun and Arsene 2009; Kleinepier et al. 2015; Nekby 2006).

The relationship between life course and migration becomes more apparent when we compare migrants from Romania and those from the UK residing in Spain (Fig. 3.6). Romanian migration to Spain is clearly dominated by young people, with an overrepresentation of the 20–24 year category. Most of these men and women arrived in Spain for work or study. The population pyramid of British residents in Spain has a totally different structure. Some of the British migrants are 30–40 years old, and many are in the older age groups, from 55 years and older. Thus, British migrants in Spain seem to be free movers coming to work in Spain alongside retirement migrants.

Fig. 3.4 Population pyramid of migrants from Poland to Germany (a) and Germany to Poland (b), 2008 (%)

Fig. 3.4 (continued)

In sum, patterns of intra-EU migration are becoming increasingly diverse. European citizens enjoy the right of freedom of movement, and might decide to temporarily or permanently settle in another European country for a variety of reasons, including family formation, retirement, study, and work. Finally it is crucial to realize that categorization of migrants into certain migration motives is rather difficult as very often multiple different reasons overlap (see, e.g., Gilmartin and Migge 2015; Santacreu et al. 2009; Verwiebe 2014).

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