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Mobility of labour from new EU states to the Nordic Region

Development trends and consequences

image of Mobility of labour from new EU states to the Nordic Region

This report sums up the developments in labour migration from the member countries to the Nordic Region since EU enlargement in 2004, the consequences for the labour markets in both the Nordic Region and in the countries of origin, the main features of the political initiatives and adaptation strategies adopted by the Nordic countries, and the most important challenges that the Nordic countries will face in this area in the future. The report points out that Western Europe and the Nordic Region have experienced significant and increasing mobility of labour from the new member countries since 1 May 2004. It concludes that greater mobility, particularly from Poland and the Baltic countries, has been a contributory factor to higher growth and lower inflation in the Nordic countries than would otherwise have been possible in a period of prolonged economic prosperity and increasing labour shortages. It also states that the challenges in the Nordic countries have primarily been associated with the growth in in-service mobility and postings away from home. In addition, the report confirms quite significant emigration of workers from Poland and the Baltic countries since 2004, which has led to shortages of labour in those countries. It concludes that even though employment levels have risen significantly, especially in the Baltic countries, the main challenge for these countries will continue to be how to further increase domestic employment levels. This report constitutes the final product of the expert group on EU expansion set up by EK-A in 2004, the mandate for which expired on 1 December 2007.

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Consequences for the labour markets in the countries of origin

The development of labour migration from the EU-8+2 must be seen in light of the dramatic processes of change that have characterised these countries since the collapse of Communism in the early 1990s. With their rigid employment structures, ‘work for all’ and minimal labour mobility, a number of sectors, with agriculture in particular, had accumulated a large surplus of labour. Restructuring the economy entailed large amounts of redundant labour, a drastic fall in the rate of employment and major imbalances in the labour markets. In spite of increasing volumes of direct investments from the West and a certain increase in emigration to Western Europe – most in the form of seasonal work – the situation in the labour markets at the time of accession to the EU was still characterised by slow employment growth, little internal mobility and high rates of unemployment (Kaczmarczyk and Okolski 2008).

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