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Cross-border labour mobility within an enlarged EU


  • Frigyes Ferdinand Heinz
  • Melanie Ward-Warmedinger


This paper examines the potential for increased cross-border labour mobility within the EU-25 and considers the costs and benefits of any increase in labour mobility to both sending and receiving countries in the medium to long run. Evidence from previous EU enlargement experiences, academic studies, the existence of barriers to mobility within the EU and the economic determinants of migration all indicate a moderate potential for increased migrant flows. The magnitude of cross-border labour flow in the medium to long run will most likely be largely a function of the demand for migrants and the speed at which the EU-8 catches up economically with the EU-15. If broad-based economic growth and social development continues in the EU-8, labour migration will most likely decrease. In addition, faster population ageing in the EU-8 tends towards dampening migration flow from the new Member States in the medium term. In terms of costs and benefits, for the EU-8 countries labour migration, especially in the short run, may present a number of challenges. Emigration may tend to weigh disproportionally on the pool of young and educated workers, aggravating labour market bottlenecks in a number of EU-8 countries. For the EU-25 as a whole, cross-border labour mobility is likely to offer a number of advantages, by allowing a more efficient matching of workers‘ skills with job vacancies and facilitating the general upskilling of European workforces. The current restrictions on labour mobility from the EU-8 countries to the other EU member countries stand in contrast with one of the central principles of the EU – the free movement of labour. Furthermore, these restrictions may decrease the efficient use of labour resources in the face of demographic change and globalisation and hamper an important adjustment mechanism within EMU. Delaying the removal of these barriers may be costly for the EU-25 at a time when leaders are concerned about Europe‘s international competitiveness and may increase illegal work in a number of countries. Finally, it would not be beneficial for Europe to loose a significant part of the most agile and talented individuals from the new Member States to more traditional migration centres such as the US and Canada.

Suggested Citation

  • Frigyes Ferdinand Heinz & Melanie Ward-Warmedinger, 2006. "Cross-border labour mobility within an enlarged EU," Occasional Paper Series 52, European Central Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecb:ecbops:20060052

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Sakellaris, Plutarchos & Vijselaar, Focco, 2004. "Capital quality improvement and the sources of growth in the euro area," Working Paper Series 368, European Central Bank.
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    Cited by:

    1. Productivity Commission, 2009. "Review of Mutual Recognition Schemes," Research Reports, Productivity Commission, Government of Australia, number 32.
    2. Pierrard, Olivier, 2008. "Commuters, residents and job competition," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(6), pages 565-577, November.
    3. Barbara Dietz, 2010. "Migration and Remittances in Macedonia : A Review," Working Papers 281, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).
    4. Wessel N. Vermeulen, 2011. "External income, De-industrialisation and Labour Mobility," CREA Discussion Paper Series 11-20, Center for Research in Economic Analysis, University of Luxembourg.
    5. Barbara Dietz, 2007. "Migration policy challenges at the new Eastern borders of the enlarged European Union : The Ukrainian case," Working Papers 267, Leibniz Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung (Institute for East and Southeast European Studies).
    6. Robert Anderton & Paul Hiebert, "undated". "The Impact of Globalisation on the Euro Area Macroeconomy," Discussion Papers 09/14, University of Nottingham, GEP.
    7. Katarzyna Budnik, 2008. "Search Equilibrium with Migration: the Case of Poland," NBP Working Papers 45, Narodowy Bank Polski, Economic Research Department.
    8. Klaus Prettner & Alfred Stiglbauer, 2007. "Effects of the Full Opening of the Austrian Labor Market to EU-8 Citizens," Monetary Policy & the Economy, Oesterreichische Nationalbank (Austrian Central Bank), issue 4, pages 50-66.
    9. Gunther Tichy, 2015. "Protecting social inclusion and mobility in a low growth scenario," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 100, WWWforEurope.
    10. Dimiter Toshkov & Elitsa Kortenska, 2015. "Does Immigration Undermine Public Support for Integration in the European Union?," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 53(4), pages 910-925, July.
    11. Lucia Kureková, 2013. "Welfare Systems as Emigration Factor: Evidence from the New Accession States," Journal of Common Market Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(4), pages 721-739, July.

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