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Labor Mobility in Central and Eastern Europe: The Migration of Workers to Germany Has Been Limited in Scope


  • Karl Brenke


The enlargement of the EU in 2004 has had numerous effects- and the German labor market has not been left untouched. Among migrant laborers coming to Germany, self-employment has been the most frequent form of labor market participation to date. Despite barriers to immigration and the need to acquire work permits, dependent employment among migrants from 2004 accession countries has also increased. On the whole, however, migrant workers from the accession countries have only added an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 workers to the German labor force since 2004. Germany's attractiveness to migrant workers from the EU-8 countries has apparently declined in recent years. Since 2006, E-8 labor immigration and work permit issuance rates have been on the decline. While many migrants have been and remain willing to perform unskilled jobs despite having a vocational degree or university education, expectations seem to have risen. Data indicate that new laborers from Bulgaria and Romania have been increasingly pursuing the types of employment that migrants from the 2004 accession countries are now less willing to accept. The consequences for the German labor market, now that restrictions to freedom of movement have been abolished, are difficult to forecast. There are almost no indications that a massive wave of workers from the EU-8 countries will arrive in Germany. Past experience with labor migration suggests that workers will move first and foremost to economically strong regions that are able to absorb new workers and hold out the promise of relatively high incomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Karl Brenke, 2011. "Labor Mobility in Central and Eastern Europe: The Migration of Workers to Germany Has Been Limited in Scope," DIW Economic Bulletin, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research, vol. 1(3), pages 10-24.
  • Handle: RePEc:diw:diwdeb:2011-3-3

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    Migration; EU Enlargement;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers


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