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Labour Migration

International labour migration was very limited under state socialism, but thereafter increased significantly. Initially, access to international labour markets was constrained, and there was considerable seasonal working and irregular employment, but there was also significant brain drain, contributing to reduced TFP (Balaz et al. 2004). However, returned migration also ensured that there were some benefits for the v4 countries in the form of knowledge transfers. These were particularly important in the early transition period, when there was a major technology gap between the V4 countries and the EU.

Accession to the EU in May 2004 was a turning point in the migration flows from the V4 countries. Ireland, Sweden and the UK opened their labour markets immediately after EU eastern enlargement in 2004. The UK and Ireland quickly proved to be popular destinations, and the numbers of V4 nationals in the EU15 doubled in 2004-2007. Some EU15 countries negotiated gradual adaptation of their labour markets: Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Finland opened in 2006, Luxembourg in 2007,

France in 2008, and Belgium and Denmark in 2009 but none were prime destinations for the V4 nationals. Finally, Germany and Austria enabled free access to their labour markets for the EU8 nationals in 2011, and their high wages, low unemployment rates and geographical proximity resulted in an increase of 340,000 V4 nationals working in Austria and Germany in 2011-2013.

Poland generated the highest numbers of emigres in the EU (1.92 m), followed by Hungary (0.30 m), Slovakia and the Czech Republic (0.17 m each) in 2013. Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary, however, had the highest relative intensities of emigration (5.1%, 3.1% and 3.0% of population, respectively) in the same year. Relative emigration from the Czech Republic was significantly lower (1.6%), due in part to its lower unemployment rates and higher wages 1997-2013. Slovakia and Poland, on the other hand, had the lowest wages and the highest unemployment rates in the same period, and had the highest increases in the numbers of emigres in 1997-2013. Holland et al. (2011, p. 14) assume that ‘approximately 75% of the increase can be attributed to the enlargement itself, while the remaining 25% is ‘likely to have occurred even in the absence of enlargement’. The 2008 economic crisis somewhat reduced the influx of V4 nationals to the EU15 countries, but the numbers of migrants increased again in 2011.

Migrants from the V4 countries concentrated in a relatively few EU15 destinations. The top six destinations (Germany, Ireland, Italy, Austria, Spain and UK) accounted for over 82% of the total Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish nationals in 1997-2004 and 2005-2013 (Table 5.6). Germany and the UK were by far the most important destinations, accounting for some 55-65% of V4 nationals in these periods.

The concentration was conditional upon wage and employment disparities, language and geographical proximity, and the evolution of labour market policies in the host countries. Jobs and educational opportunities were major motives for the intra-European migration of V4 nationals, and also the relative generosity of the welfare system (Kahanec 2012). Language proximity was of particular importance for the migration of Slovaks to the Czech Republic. The migration to Germany and Austria was informed by geographical proximity and wage differentials. Wage differentials, flexible labour markets and low unemployment rates were important for the migration of V4 nationals to the UK and Ireland. The UK and Ireland also attracted migrants wishing to learn English and/or purse tertiary education.

Table 5.6 Stock of foreign nationals in selected EU countries (period averages)

Period

Czech Kepublic

Hungary

Poland

Slovakia

97-04

05-13

97-04

05-13

97-04

05-13

97-04

05-13

Germany

25,293

36,686

53,247

74,899

300,873

432,845

15,124

28,081

Ireland

1080

12,450

590

6077

2091

111,814

4292

10,761

Italy

3498

5646

3514

6390

32,508

93,565

2481

7632

Austria

6771

9146

14,009

26,254

22,997

38,882

9208

19,665

Spain

2140

8202

1250

7652

17,722

75,087

1404

7330

UK

12,193

25,850

6355

29,240

33,600

485,778

5250

46,588

EU15 total

56,271

110,797

89,638

173,400

494,846

1,444,151

44,118

134,258

EU28 total

63,214

121,608

92,523

181,121

520,469

1,474,292

98,151

214,420

Sources: Eurostat (2015d): International Migration; Eurostat (2015e): Labour Force Survey; Holland et al. (2011); authors’ own computations.

Outflows over 4000 nationals from each country in 1997-2004 (left) and 2005-2013 (right). Country size reflects stocks of the foreign born population from the top partner countries. Sources

Fig. 5.3 Outflows over 4000 nationals from each country in 1997-2004 (left) and 2005-2013 (right). Country size reflects stocks of the foreign born population from the top partner countries. Sources: Eurostat (2015d): International Migration and authors’ own computations

The network diagrams summarise major intra-European migration movements in 1997-2004 and 2005-2013 (stocks of 4000+ emigres, Fig. 5.3). The size of the country is proportional to the total stocks of foreign nationals, while each line reflects the magnitude of the connection between the two countries of particular importance is that although the population of the V4 countries was some 6% lower than combined population of Spain, Portugal and Greece. The V4 countries had higher number of emigres (2.8 million compared to 1.66 million) in 2013. The network diagrams indicate that the major labour migration flows from southern Europe to Western Europe in the 1980s were superseded by flows from the V4 countries in 2000s and later by flows from Bulgaria and Romania by the early 2010s.

The V4 countries had an educated labour force so that deskilling levels were relatively low for the V4 nationals working in the EU15 countries by the end of the 2000s. Holland et al. (2011), for example, found that elementary or basic occupations were only taken by 30% of Poles, 23% of Slovaks, 19% of Hungarians, and 15% of Czechs working in the EU15 in 2010. Most V4 nationals worked in the middle-skilled occupations, such as clerks, service workers and shop and market sales workers, skilled agricultural and fishery workers, craft and related trades workers and plant and machine operators and assemblers. High-skill jobs were taken by about 38% of Czechs, 34% of Hungarians, 30% of Slovaks and 16% of Poles which, together with high numbers of the V4 tertiary students in the EU15 countries (65.7 thousands in 2012), indicate significant brain drain.

 
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