Post-enlargement migration in the European Union has not hurt the receiving labor markets. Although there are some risks, it also creates opportunities in the sending countries, and benefits the EU as a whole. Transitional arrangements work against the countries which impose them. In the current economic crisis, labor migration will play an important role in cushioning the effects of the crisis and creating a potential for recovery.
These are the main results of a new book, “EU Labor Markets after Post-Enlargement Migration” (see IZA Compact April/May 2009), which were presented by its editors, Martin Kahanec and Klaus F. Zimmermann, in a series of book launch events in European and global hotspots of academic and policy debate. The objective of this IZA topic-focused “tour” was to foster intellectual discourse on free mobility in an enlarged European Union, a topic whose significance goes far beyond the current economic crisis. IZA is to proceed with this initiative and be present in several other European and international capitals in the near future.
Germany has adopted a particularly reluctant approach to the access of workers from the new member states to its labor market. The book launch under the title “Interim assessment of the labor migration from the new EU member states and prospects for Germany” within the Berlin Lunchtime Meeting series at DIW Berlin marked the start of the IZA Tour 2009. Its significance was underscored by the presence of the Federal Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, Olaf Scholz. Welcoming the book, the minister stated that while early opening of the German labor market was not feasible for political reasons, Germany has amended its immigration rules to facilitate the inflow of high-skilled workers to Germany. In particular, the minister emphasized that the new Labor Migration Control Act (Arbeitsmigrationssteuerungsgesetz), which came into force January 1, 2009, offers new flexibility for the immigration of skilled migrants from the new EU member states. Based on the results of the book, however, Klaus F. Zimmermann pointed out that these efforts had come rather late and Germany may have lost the opportunity to attract high-skilled immigrants from the new member states, who so far had preferred to migrate to more welcoming countries.
As the seat of the European Commission, Brussels plays host to one of the most influential policy audiences in Europe and the world. The IZA book launch, organized within the framework of the Economic Seminar Series of the Directorate General Economic and Financial Affairs, stirred keen interest of high ranking European Commission bureaucrats and policy professionals. The Director of the Directorate A “Economic studies and research” of the European Commission, István Pál Székely, and the Coordinator of the Advisers Group at the same Directorate, Karl Pichelmann, facilitated the event and welcomed the book’s contribution to our understanding of the five-year experience after EU enlargement.
Presenting the book in Washington, D.C., the global hub for policy makers, analysts and academics, Klaus F. Zimmermann provided the U.S. audience with a profound review of the lessons and current policy challenges of post-enlargement migration in the EU. Co-hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and DIW DC, whose Director, Amelie F. Constant, is also Deputy of IZA’s migration program, the event provided a vibrant forum for transatlantic dialogue within a broader theme of labor mobility and its effects on the labor markets in the source as well as receiving countries. The meeting was moderated by Sidney Weintraub, holder of the William E. Simon Chair at the CSIS. It was well attended by influential policymakers and media experts including Michael Hofmann (Executive Director for Germany at the World Bank), Matthias Sonn (Head of Economic Affairs at the German Embassy), and Stephan Richter (Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Globalist).
Given that Sweden was the only country which completely opened up to immigrants from the new member states immediately after both the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, Stockholm was a natural choice for the IZA tour schedule. As the new IZA book shows, Sweden was well-advised in its choice of an open border migration policy: the Swedish labor market and welfare system, overall, have clearly benefited from the free movement of labor. The IZA book launch was co-organized by the Stockholm University and IZA Research Fellow Eskil Wadensjö, who contributed to the book. The event was attended by a number of top governmental officials, including State Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office, Maria Ĺsenius. In her speech, which focused on the policy aspects of EU enlargement, the State Secretary welcomed the book for pursuing research on labor migration in an enlarged EU.
Ireland tops the statistics on inflows of immigrants from the new member states. The well-attended book launch in Dublin was a testimony to the importance of the issue of post-enlargement migration in Ireland. It was hosted by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and co-organized by Alan Barrett, IZA Research Fellow, ESRI Research Professor and contributor to the book. Besides distinguished scholars including ESRI Director Frances Ruane, the head of its Social Research Division, Philip J. O'Connell, and faculty members from the Departments of Sociology and Economics at Trinity College Dublin, the audience included a number of senior policy makers and representatives from international embassies in Dublin. The IZA message – free labor migration is a solution to labor market problems, even in times of economic crisis – was prominently covered by the leading Irish newspapers: [view Irish Independent article] | [view Irish Times article].
Latvia experienced some of the largest outflows of its labor force following its EU accession in 2004, and it currently faces another wave of out-migration triggered by the economic crisis. According to the findings presented in the new book, Latvia would be well-advised to plan strategically an active labor migration policy and create incentives for post-crisis return migration to avoid severe labor shortages, which are currently concealed by the results of the economic crisis. Overall, the Baltic states have simultaneously experienced brain drain and the beginning of brain gain in terms of remittances and additional skill of return migrants. Andris Bērziņš, Chairperson of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee and former Prime Minister, as well as the Minister of Education and Science, Tatjana Koķe, on behalf of Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis, acclaimed the significant contribution and policy relevance of the IZA book for pending policy decisions in the Baltic States. Hosted by the University of Latvia and co-organized by Mihails Hazans, who also contributed to the book, this meeting provided a forum for intensive debate on brain drain and gain in the context of EU Eastern enlargement. This topic will be of special importance for a common EU approach towards labor migration. [view press article in "Latvians Online"}
Polish nationals constitute by far the largest share of post-enlargement migrants from the new member states. Consequently, the IZA book tour stop at the Tyszkiewicz Palace of the University of Warsaw in the heart of the city attracted a large audience of leading academics, policy professionals and politicians, including several representatives of the Polish government and ambassadors, as well as journalists. Paweł Świeboda (President, demosEUROPA - Centre for European Strategy) and Marek Okólski (Director, Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw) hosted the event. Other prominent experts on migration included Pawel Kaczmarczyk (Vice-director, Centre of Migration Research and contributor of the book chapter on Poland), Dariusz Stola (Centre of Migration Research), Marek Kupiszewski (Director, Central European Forum for Migration Research), and Marek Góra (Warsaw School of Economics).
As a contribution to a broader objective of the book to inform the European policy debate about migration issues, the book was presented at a seminar hosted by the European Institute for Public Administration entitled “Immigration within the EU, the Labour Market and Economic Growth” in Maastricht, the Netherlands. For an audience of policy professionals, public administrators and practitioners from across the EU, the central focus of the book presentation was what is likely to happen to the East-West migration within the EU when restrictions are removed. Policy implications for managing European migration flows were drawn.