Stories of migration

Emigration in Europe: Who Emigrates Where?

© imageteam –© imageteam – Fotolia.comThe “national bankruptcy generation” is emigrating, a business newspaper recently wrote. Young Greeks are seeking their luck abroad – and they are not the only ones in Europe. The economic and financial crisis has changed the flows of European migration.

If after the fall of the Iron Curtain most workers emigrated from the new EU accession countries of the East to the West (mainly Great Britain, Spain and Ireland), the direction has now changed. The South is now again moving north, as it once did before between 1960 and 1970.

Between 2000 and 2007, for example, 730,000 people on the average moved annually to Spain, mainly from Romania. In 2009 it was just under 150,000, whereas more than 100,000 Spaniards emigrated (EU Monitor Report of the Deutsche Bank). Great Britain, with its less-regulated labor market, was the preferred destination of Poles and Indians (each group making up ten per cent), while Portuguese preferred to move to Luxembourg (25 per cent of all immigrants).

Germany: Fewer immigrants

© FX Berlin – Fotolia.comThe 2011 International Migration Outlook (IMO 2011) has summarized the figures in the crisis year 2009. Sixteen of the twenty-two IMO states recorded a decline in immigration between five and forty-three per cent. Only Sweden, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Russia and the United States had positive immigration figures from one to seventeen per cent. At the bottom of the report was the Czech Republic, with a decline of over forty per cent. Germany lies in the middle range with an immigration minus of thirteen per cent. That is, more Germans, and non-EU citizens living in Germany, moved out of the country than to it. If in the 1970s, 50,000 annually decided to seek their luck abroad; in 2009 the number was 155,000. Most Germans moved to Switzerland, the United States, Austria and Poland.

On the positive side, the IMO 2011 underlined that Germany has had a large influx of foreign students. More than 60,000 students chose to study in Germany in 2009 – a record number. Germany is particularly popular with the Chinese, who alone make up fifteen per cent of foreign students.

In EU member states, figures for the resident foreign population ranges from less than one per cent of the total population (Slovakia) to thirty-nine per cent (Luxembourg). In most the countries, however, the number of foreigners lies between two and eight per cent of the total population. In most of the countries (except Luxembourg), the majority of the foreign population is made up of non-EU citizens. In Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, Turkish citizens are the largest foreign group. In Portugal and Spain, on the other hand, most foreigners are citizens of former colonies (Cape Verde, Brazil and Angola in the case of Portugal and Ecuador and Morocco in the case of Spain). For historical reasons and because of geographical proximity, the vast majority of immigrants in Greece are from Albania, in Slovenia from parts of former Yugoslavia, in Slovakia from the Czech Republic, and in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the former Soviet Union.

The higher the degree, the more mobile

© Colourbox.comAccording to a representative survey by Eurobarometer in 2009, the willingness of Europeans to work abroad is greatest among young people and increases with the level of education. Destinations in EU countries not their own seem to be quite popular among young Europeans, especially when in their own country job prospects are meager.

Thus a new Eurobarometer survey in 2011 of 15 to 35 year-olds showed that, because of poor labor market prospects, every second member of the group could imagine working temporarily or permanently in other EU countries. Particularly young people from Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece cited the lack of available jobs in their region or specialty and poor pay as the reason. The higher the level of education, the greater the desire to work in other European countries – fifty-five per cent with a high skills level versus thirty-three per cent with a lower skills level.

Fully booked language courses

© Colourbox.comLanguage courses in German are fully booked, reported the Goethe-Institut in Athens. Internet forums, information sessions for those interested in emigration, and intensive training courses in foreign languages are overflowing. More than a third of young Greeks can imagine moving abroad permanently. They see no chances for themselves in their homeland. Unemployment in the age group under 30 is forty per cent. So too with young Spaniards: they are also turning north, and in particular to Germany. In contrast, emigration rates from Turkey to Germany have been negative since 2006. In 2009, 35,000 immigrants (Turks, those of Turkish descent and Germans) left Germany for Turkey, while 27,000 emigrated from the country on the Bosporus to Germany. Many young Turks believe that they are more likely to find a job during the economic crisis in their homeland, which is booming, than in Germany.

More recent data are still lacking. Because there are no longer border controls in Europe and anyone can settle in a neighboring country without registering, no exact figures are available. The Migration Report of the BMI records for 2009 approximately 8,500 emigrations from Greece to Germany, but over 16,000 emigrations from Germany to Greece. This could soon change dramatically. At any rate, the Report of the Deutsche Bank expects that in the coming years Greeks especially, but also Irish and Spanish people, will increasingly emigrate to Germany.

The 2010 Migration Report, issued in December 2011 by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, contains current data, figures and results.
2010 Migration Report
Volker Thomas
is a freelance journalist based in Berlin and runs an agency for texts and design (

Translation: Jonathan Uhlaner
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
November 2011

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