2006-09-25

A ko vas traži?

Is EU accession going to lead to a huge migration of labor from Romania and Bulgaria to the UK? The UK Home Office seems to be planning for the eventuality, and probably has plans to try to limit what they (may) anticipate to be an inflow of 60K to 140K workers. Gallup's survey in Bulgaria suggest otherwise: they find about 46K people saying that they intend to seek employment abroad, and Britain is not their first choice. Most would prefer to go to Spain, Germany, Italy or Greece. Alan Travis is listing for The Guardian a number of research studies showing that, for a variety of reasons, the UK is not all that attractive a destination for employment migration from SEE. A government that is declaring its hostility in advance is probably not enhancing the attraction. If there is unfounded anticipation in Britain, it may be because people are expecting the influx of workers from Poland to be repeated. If so, there is a crucial difference being overlooked: there was already an established Polish community and network in the UK, and there is nothing approaching that level of ready-to-use connections from Romania or Bulgaria.

In a similar pattern, there are some signs that the direction of the India-UK "brain drain" might be starting to move in reverse, as people become attracted to an environment that is dynamic and where they are less likely to encounter growing forms of "profiling." These are probably not the same reasons why a large number of people already in Britain express a desire to leave.

5 comments:

Jim said...

I am all in favour of opening the borders to Romania and Bulgaria, but before the UK is singled out for criticism for its recent policy change, can we also remember that most of the EU member states will not only impose similar limits on Romanians and Bulgarians, but will also keep in place limits on eight of the 2004 new entrants for another five years! This is often overlooked. It is almost certain that UK wouldn’t even have to do this if France and Germany had been willing to open their borders to Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Hungarians, etc. This is where the real criticism should be directed!

Also, don't rely on polling data at this stage. I remember that the first report published on workers arriving in the first six months after accession showed that numbers were small and the impact minimal. It was only once word started to get round that there was no restrictions that the numbers swelled massively. I would expect the same from Romania and Bulgaria. At first, only a few would know about their right to work, but once a few have made it over and discovered how easy it is the numbers will rise significantly.

Eric Gordy said...

The UK has not changed policy yet -- they are still floating suggestions that they might.

Jim said...

Eric - I think that it is pretty safe to say that the announcement is on the way! The Home Secretary has been making very clear noises that he intends to limit migration and with the immigration debate in the UK being what it is, it is just too easy a target for political point scoring. In any case, my points still stand: even if the announcement has not been made, the UK should not be singled out for even considering such a policy when other states already have the policy in place, and in a far more vicious form that covers almost all the 2004 entrants.

Eric Gordy said...

Probably so. On that count, it looks like Finland is more generous than other countries. But what I think Mr Reid is doing is working up a populist panic over a manufactured issue. On the question of polling data, I am willing to believe that the numbers may be off, but less willing to believe that the preferences are not reported accuartely.

Jim said...

And what did I tell you?


Access limited for new EU nations


My points above stand...The UK was the most generous of the large EU countries and faced a massive influx of migrants as a result. (The fact that English is spoken here also helps matters!) Had Germany and France showed the same generosity, maybe things would be different and the UK could extend the same terms to Bulgaria and Romania at far less political cost on the domestic front. If you want to blame anyone for London's actions, blame Paris and Berlin.