The population is aging, the birth-rate is low, and workers emigrate to wealthier shores from all Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries. The newly published CEED Institute's report about migrations in the area, second of its kind, asks if migration might provide the answer to growing demographic concerns and labor shortage.
According to the report, the number of Estonians who reside in EU-15 countries has grown 170 percent since Estonia became a member of the European Union, from 28,000 in 2004 to 75,000 in 2013. On paper, the situation is not as grave as in Latvia (515 percent, 141,000 people in 2013), Lithuania (440 percent; 268,000 people) or Romania (330 percent, 2,322,000 people), but the fact that Slovenia has managed to keep emigration growth rate around 30 and the Czech Republic around 50 percent, gives reason to believe that large-scale emigration from CEE countries can be avoided if right measures are implemented.
Finland continues to be the main destination for Estonians, while the Finns also account for the largest share of new immigrants in Estonia from the EU, while most people who move to Estonia from third countries come from Russia (94 percent of non-EU immigrants in 2012). Although Estonia managed to improve its net migration rate a little in 2013, it is still in the red, having a negative migration balance.
CEE countries, Estonia among them, suffer from significant shortage of highly skilled employees with unique skills, and the demand for them will grow in the years to come. Due to the dynamics of demographic changes and sustained emigration, the inflow of additional immigrants, particularly the highly skilled ones, will not translate into unemployment growth, the report claims. The immigrants will also help to alleviate the looming demographic crises.
At the moment, however, CEE states lose out in the competition for highly qualified immigrants. Such immigrants currently make the most significant contribution to the economies of the US, Canada, Germany and the UK.
According to the report, Estonia has the potential to be the third most attractive country for foreigners in Central and Eastern Europe, only slightly less appealing than the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Of the EU-15 countries, Sweden is the first, Luxembourg second and Denmark third most attractive, at least on paper.
If the CEE countries want to enter the the competition for foreigners who will positively contribute to their competitiveness, they must undertake additional actions in the field of immigration policy to encourage greater inflow of foreigners. At the moment, however, EU in general is losing the race against the US, Canada and Australia, researchers say. So the migration alone will not offer a solution to all labor market and demographic problems. The success of a society is in the end determined not by its size, but by its structure, the report says.
Editor: M. Oll