3rd Feb 2023

Fear of 'youth drain' from new member states

Some new member states are battling with a 'youth drain' as well-qualified young people leave for jobs in western Europe, according to a new report.

Published on Wednesday (10 August) by the NGO, European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), the report suggests that "3% to 5% of young new member states nationals who [have] completed a third-level education tend to leave their home countries for better wage prospects".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Do the transitional labour restrictions make 'Polish plumbers' more numerous? (Photo: Polish tourist information office in Paris)

"Sending countries (such as Poland or Hungary) fear not simply a brain drain but rather a youth drain", states the report.

Statistics show that workers tend to be predominantly young (18-34) and male.

Poland, as the biggest new member state, has the most nationals abroad. Poles make up the biggest number of eastern workers in the UK (98,235 or 56%), Ireland (40,000) and Sweden, where Poles account for 60 percent - all three member states opened their borders to new member state workers.

In Germany, where there is a seven-year transitional period before free movement is allowed, Poles are again the most numerous, with 216,575 seasonal workers and almost 20,000 contractual workers registered in the first half of 2004.


ECAS says that the statistical data on migration within the EU since enlargement last year shows that fears about an influx of workers to old member states proved to be a myth.

"The scare-mongering was wrong", said Tony Venables, head of ECAS adding "There is still an enormous gap between the public perception of enlargement and what is happening on the ground".

The authors of the report suggest that particularly in the UK, Ireland and Sweden, migrants from new member states tend to be temporary, so do not bring their family, and take jobs that others cannot or will not do.

In Warsaw, for example, a training school has been set up to prepare Polish dentists to work in Britain, where there is a lack of dentists.

Ireland most popular destination

However, the lack of restrictions in the UK, Sweden and Ireland has led to a sharp increase in the numbers of workers coming to these countries, when compared to pre-enlargement data.

In the UK, 175,000 workers have registered - much higher than the 5,000 to 10,000 predicted by the British government.

Similarly, in Ireland, 85,000 social security numbers have been allocated to migrants from accession countries, a high percentage for the small four-million strong country.

In Sweden, which is the only country that also allows equal access to its social security system, there was a 70 percent increase in the number of applications for residence permits.

But arguing that these workers fill a gap that needed to be filled, Mr Venables said that the justification for transitional measures restricting workers - in 12 of the 15 old member states -"appears indefensible".

He also indicated that there may be a link between the transitional measures and the 'Polish plumber' syndrome in France, which has become a metaphor for all the fears about cheap eastern labour.

He suggests that because it is so difficult for a Polish worker to get employed in France, the worker becomes self-employed, and charges cheaper Polish prices.

Dutch far right opens anti-Polish hotline

The Dutch far-right Freedom Party, a key ally of the centre-right coalition government, on Wednesday opened up a website to collect complaints about people from Central and Eastern Europe residing in The Netherlands.

Austria to extend work ban for EU newcomers

Austria is to extend a ban for workers from new EU countries for another three years, with a possibility of applying a maximum transition period of seven years until 2011.

EU lobby register still riddled with errors

The EU's lobby register remains riddled with errors, with pro-transparency campaigners demanding better data and mandatory rules. The latest findings come amid a raft of proposals by the European Parliament president to weed out corruption in the wake of Qatargate.

Latest News

  1. Greece faces possible court over 'prison-like' EU-funded migration centres
  2. How the centre-right can take on hard-right and win big in 2024
  3. Top EU officials show Ukraine solidarity on risky trip
  4. MEPs launch anonymous drop-box for shady lobbying secrets
  5. Hawkish ECB rate-rise 'puts energy transition at risk'
  6. MEPs push for greater powers for workers' councils
  7. How Pavel won big as new Czech president — and why it matters
  8. French official to take on Islamophobia in EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Party of the European LeftJOB ALERT - Seeking a Communications Manager (FT) for our Brussels office!
  2. European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual & Reproductive Rights (EPF)Launch of the EPF Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2023. 8th February. Register now.
  3. Europan Patent OfficeHydrogen patents for a clean energy future: A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value chains
  4. Forum EuropeConnecting the World from the Skies calls for global cooperation in NTN rollout
  5. EFBWWCouncil issues disappointing position ignoring the threats posed by asbestos
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLarge Nordic youth delegation at COP15 biodiversity summit in Montreal

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  4. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  5. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  6. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us