Saturday, February 09, 2008

Eastern Europe between emigration and immigration

Eastern Europe between emigration and immigration:causes, obstacles and implications of simultaneous migration flows

Artjoms Ivlevs


Despite relatively high emigration rates from countries that joined the EU in 2004, immigration pressures in Central and Eastern Europe are rising. This paper discusses the factors that influence simultaneous migration flows in the region, highlighting economic, demographic, transit and ethnic determinants. In particular, the “new” EU States are likely to receive increasing numbers of immigrants because of the rapid economic development resulting in labour shortages in such sectors as construction and services, rapidly aging populations and the attractiveness of the region for transit migrants from ex-Soviet Union countries. Using the case of Latvia, we also show that individual’s ethnicity may be an important determinant of both emigration intentions and immigration preferences. Ethnic minorities in Latvia who themselves are Russian speaking second and third generation immigrants, one the one hand, have higher probability of emigration and, on the other, are more pro-immigrant compared to ethnic Latvians.

The 2004 enlargement of the European Union (EU) has resulted in considerable outflows of labour from poorer regions of the Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) in search of higher earnings in Western Europe. The issue is increasingly preoccupying both in migration receiving and sending countries. The populations of the former - “old” EU States - are worried about a possible negative impact of immigration on labour markets and welfare states, as well as problems related to the social and cultural integration of the new-comers. At the same time, immigrants in developed countries help coping with labour market shortages, thereby contributing to economic growth, and may alleviate population aging problems. On the contrary, in the “new” EU States, emigration of labour may hinder long-term economic growth and aggravate demographic situation, undermining the convergence to the living standards of the wealthy European economies. However, instantaneous benefits from higher earning possibilities for those who migrate and their families staying behind are substantial. Besides the traditional migration flows from the “new” to the “old” EU States, immigration pressures in Central and Eastern Europe are increasing. Almost all countries in the region are confronted with acute labour shortages in several sectors (in particular, services and construction). Shrinking labour force, both due to high emigration rates and natural decrease of the population, raises the question of how the sustainability of economic growth and pension.

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