Drawing on previous chapters and on available statistical data we identify the main features of the South-North migration. Firstly, we indicate that the intensity of the current South-North is relatively low if we take into account, on the one hand, the scale of the crisis-driven deterioration of the labour markets in southern countries and, on the other, the volume of the previous South-North migration in the post-war period. Secondly we show that new Southern European migrants are predominantly young and highly educated, particularly when compared with their counterparts, who migrated during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. We argue that, while the asymmetric impact of the economic crisis throughout the European Union and the unique features of the deeply fragmented labour markets of its Southern member countries may be considered primordial factors that triggered a renewed South-North intra-European mobility, its volume and composition are determined by the previous long term structural, demographic, social and economic transformations experienced by both Southern and Northern EU countries.
- South-North migration
- Labour market
- Economic crisis
For centuries, migration has been a widely spread response to both adversity and economic opportunities in Europe. In spite of variations in the size and characteristics of migration flows, Europeans have historically moved from less prosperous regions to more prosperous ones. Expanding economies, hungry labour markets, higher salaries and also political instability are just a few of the factors that have triggered European migration over the years.
Nowadays, a revival of past South-North migratory routes seems to be taking place as a consequence of the ongoing economic crisis. However, three distinctive features need to be immediately underlined. First, before the economic crisis, Southern European countries had become net receiving countries during the first 8 years of the twenty-first century. This involved these Member States having to think of themselves again as countries of emigration. As we have seen in different chapters of this volume, the very acknowledgement of the existence of crisis-related migration is often a controversial topic. Second, the degradation of Southern European economies has reduced migration to this area from third countries and Central and Eastern European Member States. Third, contrarily to twentieth century South-North European migration, Southern European migrants are now leaving countries hard hit by the crisis and moving to countries that have also been affected by the economic downturn (although in a significantly lesser extent). In Northern European Member States, demand for foreign labour and growing anti-immigrant sentiments have created an unwelcoming context for further migration following the crisis. For this reason, post-crisis migration from Southern Europe constitutes a very novel and challenging research topic.
One of the objectives of this volume was to describe the scale, intensity and fundamental social and demographic features of this new Southern European mobility and to identify the main patterns of the socio-economic integration of Southern EU migrants into Northern European destination countries. Throughout this book, this objective was pursued through the analysis of the most recent available statistical data on flows, stocks and profiles of this new migrant category using data sources from both sending and receiving countries. While the national chapters explored the main traits and particularities of new South-North intra-European migration from the specific perspective of sending and receiving countries, the purpose of this chapter is to identify and discuss the main features of this new phenomenon on a more general level.
The statistical data in the country-specific chapters shows that there are at least two distinctive features that characterize current South to North migration. Firstly, its intensity is relatively low if we take into account, on the one hand, the scale of the crisis-driven deterioration of the labour markets in southern countries and, on the other, the volume of the previous South-North migration in the post-war period. Secondly, as shown in previous chapters, new Southern European migrants are predominantly young and highly educated, particularly when compared with their counterparts, who migrated during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
What factors are behind these particularities of the current South-North migration flows? In this chapter, we argue that, while the asymmetric impact of the economic crisis throughout the European Union and the unique features of the deeply fragmented labour markets of its Southern member countries may be considered primordial factors that triggered a renewed South-North intra-European mobility, the intensity and composition of these flaws are also determined by the previous structural, demographic, social and economic transformation experienced by both Southern and Northern EU countries. We start this chapter with a brief description of the unequal effects of the economic crisis in the European Union. We then discuss the recent history of migratory flows in Europe and describe how the recent economic crisis has affected intra-EU migratory flows. In the sections that follow, we explore the features that make current migratory trends significantly different from the post-war South-North migratory waves. We also discuss the apparent contrasts between the harshness of the economic crisis experienced by the southern periphery of the EU and the relatively low intensity of mobility when compared to the previous post-war South-North migrations. Finally, we shed some light on factors underlying the fact that migration has become a strategy adopted mainly (although not exclusively) by young and relatively well-educated Southern Europeans.
11.2 The Economic Crisis in EU Countries: An Overview
As shown throughout this volume, the consequences of the economic crisis have been particularly devastating for Southern EU members, and have had a significant impact on the increase in South-North mobility. The linkages between the state of the European economies and migration have emerged as one of the most important topics in recent scientific debates on migration (Canetta et al. 2014; Castles and Vezzoli 2009; Kahanec et al. 2014). A growing number of publications have assessed the dynamics of the crisis and its impacts on the mobility patterns of EU nationals as well as of third country nationals (see Kahanec and Kurekova 2014; OECD 2011, 2012; Kaczmarczyk and Stanek 2015). What needs to be emphasized is that although in its initial phase, the economic deterioration spread throughout most of the developed countries, its consequences are not equally distributed among Member States (Kahanec and Zimmermann 2014). As can be seen in Table 11.1, the significant economic growth experienced in most of the EU since the turn of the present century ended abruptly during the years 2008 and 2009. The table also shows that taking as a whole the net growth for the period 2008–2013, important differences can be observed. Whereas Southern and Baltic EU countries, as well as Ireland, suffered from a major recession, other countries such as Germany and Slovakia saw a short-duration economic decline followed by a period of dynamic recovery. Poland is the only country in the EU that did not experience any negative growth (although its economy did also slow markedly).
The asymmetric impact of the crisis has also been reflected in disparities in austerity-driven economic policies implemented across the EU. The drop in economic growth, together with monetary imbalances resulting from the financial crunch of 2007, has affected strongly the fiscal sustainability of national economies. The extraordinary growth of public debt and the pressure exerted by EU and international financial institutions for urgent fiscal consolidation pushed hard-hit Southern European countries to reduce radically their public spending. Crucial spheres of the Welfare State such as health care and education were particularly affected by these measures. Although several crisis-affected Northern EU Member States also implemented austerity measures in order to safeguard financial stability (i.e. mainly through tax increases and cuts in public spending), their range and social impacts were less drastic when compared to those of Southern Europe (Karger 2014; Matsaganis and Leventi 2014).
The uneven impact of the economic crisis is also reflected in unemployment data. As shown in Table 11.2, while unemployment rates have remained stable or increased moderately in Northern Europe, Southern European Member States have suffered dramatic increases. Although the economic crisis has affected cyclically sensitive sectors such as construction, services and some branches of manufacturing, Northern EU countries have generally been more successful in tackling the unemployment crisis whether through ad hoc employment policies (see Chap. 7 of this volume) or by relaxing labour market regulations (see Chap. 10 of this volume).
In Southern European countries, job destruction is not only a consequence of the crisis; it is also the outcome of the peculiarities of the labour market in those countries, which preceded the economic crisis. Firstly, Southern European countries are characterized by strong labour market fragmentation. This means that the level of worker protection varies greatly according to whether employees are under permanent or temporary contracts. The high level of protection afforded to permanent workers and, in parallel, the high level of vulnerability experienced by temporary workers has led to significant volatility in the labour market: contracting on a fixed-term basis has been seen to expand during periods of economic boom, and intensive job destruction has been seen to occur during times of economic crisis (Bentolila et al. 2012; Garibaldi and Tadde 2013). In addition, the fragmentation of the labour markets deepened during the economic crisis as a result of the structural reforms carried out by Southern European countries under pressure from financial markets and from international institutions and creditor countries within the European Union. Deregulation of the labour market aimed initially at boosting job creation has resulted in increasing temporality and instability of the most vulnerable categories of the economically active population, such as the young and women (Gutiérrez 2014; Moreira et al. 2015). On the other hand, the heavy dependence of Southern EU economies on labour-intensive and low-productivity jobs has also had a considerable impact on unemployment rates, as low added-value sectors were the most hard hit by the economic crisis in Europe (European Commission 2014).
Finally, rising unemployment has been accompanied by a considerable fall in salaries as a direct result of the competitiveness improvement strategies employed by Southern European governments, based mainly on cuts in labour costs (Fernández 2014). All in all, the perception of employment insecurity caused by intensive job destruction, the deterioration of welfare state provisions and, finally, worsening economic working conditions, has led to a generalized perception of a deprivation of professional aspirations and life expectations. All these factors combined have favoured the intensification of South-North mobility within the EU.
11.3 Changes in European Migratory Flows
11.3.1 Historical Context
Historically, migratory flows in Europe have been characterized by the displacement of workers from relatively underdeveloped rural areas of Northern, Eastern and Southern Europe. These workers were attracted to other countries and regions where vibrant economic development and urbanization favoured an increasing division of labour. This context historically triggered the demand for unskilled or semi-skilled labour in growing economic sectors such as intensive agriculture, mining, construction and heavy industry. Nonetheless, the main destinations for European migrants from the mid-nineteenth century to the 1920s were the Americas and Australia. This trend changed with the economic development of Northern European countries in the first decade of the twentieth century, which coincided with significant reductions in fertility rates and the associated reduction in labour surpluses in these countries (Caselli et al. 2003). While Southern and Eastern European regions continued to lag behind, emigrants from those areas could now find in Northern Europe an alternative to trans-oceanic migration. For instance, of the 15 million Italians who emigrated between 1876 and 1920, nearly half (6.8 million) went to other European countries. Similarly, up to 2.4 million Polish migrants were employed as seasonal workers in the German Empire during the same period (Castles and Miller 2009). World War I—and the ethnic and political migration it triggered—as well as the growing restrictions on immigration in the Americas further reinforced this trend (Kirk 1969).
After World War II, the rebuilding of the North European economies in the late 1940s and the subsequent intensive economic growth supported by the development of heavy industries, manufacturing and construction triggered new migration. Indeed, those industries required an increasing amount of manpower that native workers could not entirely satisfy. Similarly to previous decades, the growing economies of Northern Europe relied on low-skilled migrants from less-developed countries and regions to meet the growing demand for labour. Two features characterized these post-war migration flows. First, the division of Europe caused by the Cold War reduced considerably the flow from Central and Eastern Europe countries, which had hitherto constituted a traditional reservoir of workers for Northern European countries (Fassmann and Münz 1994). This created a major dependence on workers from Southern Europe. Second, guest-worker programmes became the main modality of migration to Northern Europe after World War II. Although these programmes had existed before, it was really during the post-war period that state-led recruitment programmes began to shape the direction and volume of migratory flows (Olsson 1996).
Belgium, the United Kingdom and France were the first to start recruiting in Southern Europe by signing bilateral labour agreements with Italy in 1946. They were followed by the Netherlands and Switzerland a few years later (Akgündüz 2012). Interestingly, West Germany—which became the largest destination country for guest workers—implemented these programmes only later. It was only following pressure from employers in the industrial sector that the West German government eventually agreed to take this route (Petersen 2006). These programmes would become the main channel through which Italian, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish workers migrated to Northern European countries in the 1950s, 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. Within Europe, Northern states therefore found in the rural South the necessary supply of labour for their economic recovery after World War II. According to rather conservative estimations made by Zimmermann (1996), from the beginning of the post-war migration until the early 1970s, approximately five million people migrated to Northern Europe from the Mediterranean countries (including Turkey). However, there are reasons to think that the flow was even larger. The total volume of flow from Spain in the period 1956–1971 was approximately 1.5 million (Akgündüz 2012). According to Venturini (2004), in the 1960s alone, over 2.3 million Italians emigrated to Northern Europe. Between 1965 and 1974, 1,218,000 Portuguese migrants moved abroad; of these, 63 % headed to France (Baganha et al. 2005). Increasing demand for labour favoured the extension of guest-worker programmes to countries like Morocco and Turkey. Former colonial powers, like the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands also adopted policies to facilitate a more intense migration from former colonial territories (Venturini 2004).
Over the years, economic development and urbanization in Southern Europe gradually reduced the pool of rural and unemployed populations in these areas. This trend was reinforced by the 1973 Oil Crisis, which put an end to the period of rapid economic expansion in Northern Europe and led these countries to abandon their guest-worker programmes. Nonetheless, contrary to government expectations, such a policy change did not lead to massive returns of Southern European guest workers.
In Southern Europe, the gradual improvement of social and economic conditions, the democratization processes in Greece, Portugal and Spain, along with weak inflow control and easy access to the shadow economy, started to attract immigration. Between 1973 and 1989, Southern Europe therefore turned from a major migrant-sending region into a receiving one (King 2000). In following years, intensification of immigration flows was accompanied by a considerable diversification of the origins with immigration from Central and Eastern Europe supplementing the earlier migratory waves (Peixoto et al. 2012). Migration from Central and Eastern Europe later intensified after the 2004 and 2007 enlargements of the European Union.
Initial migratory flows from Central and Eastern Europe were directed towards the United Kingdom and Ireland, and only later to other Northern EU Member States and Southern Europe. EU Labour Force Survey data also shows that within the 10 years following the 2004 EU enlargement, the total number of EU12 nationals residing in the “old” Member States increased 5.4-fold, from 1.1 million in 2004 to 6.1 million in 2014. This number can be translated into a total net inflow of five million people from the New Member States (Fihel et al. 2015). Overall, the enlargement of the EU to Central and Eastern Europe contributed decisively to consolidating the East to West migratory route but also, and most importantly, to establishing a new East to South migratory route (Grzymała-Kazłowska 2013).
11.3.2 Migratory Flows in the EU During the Economic Crisis
The outbreak of the economic crisis changed considerably the patterns of intra-EU mobility. First of all, available data presented in the country chapters of this volume showed clear signs of a remarkable increase in South-North mobility, particularly between 2011 and 2012, when unemployment levels reached record high levels in Southern Europe. Data regarding stock and outflows from southern countries suggests that the main destinations for new Southern European migrants have been unsurprisingly, the UK and Germany. Data of inflows from these countries is consistent with this and also reports considerable increases in the numbers of Southern Europeans arriving at the beginning of the decade. The lesser importance of France as a receiving country, when compared to the role that it played decades ago, may very well be a consequence of its sluggish economic performance.
In addition, as mentioned in several chapters of this volume, empirical evidence suggests that large numbers of New Member State nationals (for example Romanians in Spain, Albanians in Greece) and Latin Americans, who once migrated to Southern Europe, are currently returning home or re-emigrating towards different EU Member States. Finally, it can be observed that the Southern European countries (and Ireland) have lost their power of attraction for migratory flows. Although in the case of Italy and Spain, migratory flows from New Member States have continued, their intensity has been significantly lower when compared with the pre-crisis period. By contrast, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom represent the cluster of countries where the numbers of recently arrived (post-crisis) migrants are larger in relative terms than those that arrived between 2003 and 2007. This is related to increasing flows from the crisis-hit Southern Europe and also to renewed migration from New Member States (Fihel et al. 2015) (Table 11.3).
11.3.3 Past and Current South-North Flows: Why History Is Not Repeating Itself
The authors of the country chapters of this volume referred frequently to the controversy regarding the size of the phenomenon under study. On the one hand, it seems that, despite the duration and the harshness of the crisis in Southern EU countries, the overall volume of South-North migration could be considered relatively low if compared with the migrations of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, with the sole exception of Portugal. On the other hand, data limitations pose the question of whether the real numbers of outflows and inflows are greatly underestimated by the available official statistics. Particularly puzzling is the estimation of the real size of both circular and unregistered migration.
Nevertheless, under the free movement of the labour force granted within the European Union by the Treaty, and given the staggering unemployment rates observed in the South, one might expect higher rates of internal migratory flows, even in the official statistics. One plausible explanation for these otherwise “surprisingly” low levels of current South to North migratory flows arises when considering that international migration is often yet another form of rural to urban migration of the young and the middle aged. Due to past declines in fertility rates (see Billari and Kohler 2004; Frejka and Sardon 2004), the size of the 20–34 year old cohorts in South Europe decreased substantially between 1965 and 2014 (to around 2.4 million smaller in Spain and 0.7 million smaller in Italy). Moreover, as Southern European countries are now far more urbanized than in the post-war context, this driver of Southern European migration has also lost momentum (Heikkilä and Kashinoro 2009). Over time, these demographic changes that have affected Southern Europe since the 1970s have contributed to a significant reduction in the pool of potential migrants from this region of Europe.
In addition to this, one must also bear in mind that current potential southern migrants often lack informal networks of their fellow countrymen in the destination countries, and this limits their ability to establish a foothold there. Demographic changes in the South of Europe must thus be related to the lack of availability of family networks in destination countries for younger generations of potential southern migrants. Young unemployed southerners are no longer concentrated in rural areas lacking basic services, as they were during the post-war years, but instead live in well-equipped urban towns and cities, quite often in parental households. Their parents did not migrate to northern countries, or else they returned long ago, leaving no strong links there. Consequently, nowadays, typically southern family networks favour staying at home to cope with unemployment or they take on precarious employment rather than migrating. On the other hand, if they do migrate, this may be only temporarily, while remaining registered as residents in the parental household of the native country in order to avoid losing welfare benefits, such as free and straightforward access to public health care.
There is a well-documented literature on the impact of transnational networks on migration flows and patterns of labour market incorporation. At the individual or household level, support from ethnic networks reduces the costs of migration and adaptation into the host society and labour market. At the macro-social level, these networks determine the direction and intensity of migration flows (Gurak and Caces 1992; Espinosa and Massey 1999). However, as established in the literature, the durability of transnational links is a critical condition for networks to play a role for newcomers. When there are important time gaps between migration waves, the links between old and new migration waves may be weak. In this case, the links between migrant communities and the home country can become purely symbolic and therefore of little use for the socio-economic integration of newcomers (Bruneau 2010). In this regard, the case of post-crisis Southern European migration is very illustrative. The gradual decrease in the volume of emigration from Italy, Spain and Greece after the 1970s Oil Crisis created a considerable time gap between the post-war and the new cohorts of migrants. We believe that this missing generational link has contributed to keeping the volume of outflows from these countries relatively low.
As shown in Chap. 6, Portugal offers a counter-example to this situation, as networks continue to play an important role in migration decisions and in the integration of newcomers into the labour market. The relevance of migration networks in the Portuguese case can be explained by the fact that migration from this country never ceased. This continuous migration maintained dense transnational connections between the emigrant communities and the home country. This data could explain the specificity of the Portuguese case compared to the other three Southern European case studies: new Portuguese migrants are comparatively more numerous and less skilled.
Southern Europeans lacking informal links (relatives or friends) with northern countries may find alternative strategies to cope with unemployment, such as staying within the parental household in the country of origin, waiting for a job opportunity, accepting work in the shadow economy or pursuing further education. In short, they opt for modalities of adaptation to the crisis that do not involve migration, or at least, not the type of (permanent) fully regularized migration that is reflected in official statistics.
Furthermore, one should not forget that northern countries have experienced a deep transformation of their economic structure with subsequent changes in labour force demand. The structure of demand for labour in Northern Europe is not the same as it was during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, either in quantitative or qualitative terms. Labour-intensive industries have, to a great extent, been delocalized, thus reducing employment opportunities for unskilled migrants. At the same time, many employment niches have appeared in the service sector for the low skilled (e.g., hospitality) and also for the better educated (e.g., health care, finance, engineering), particularly in the most dynamic Northern European labour markets (the UK, Germany). Northern European labour markets no longer require a massive migration of uneducated people to place in labour-intensive activities such as mining or heavy industry but rather workers with specific skills. Accordingly, successful insertion into these more competitive labour markets is only available to those migrants who respond to certain characteristics in terms of education, occupation and language proficiency. The low level of foreign language proficiency among Southern Europeans is therefore an important obstacle to their successful relocation in Northern Europe (see EU Skills Panorama 2014). Among the highly educated, some have specific skills that are needed in receiving Northern European countries. Others, however, do not have those skills, or simply lack adequate acceptable qualifications with which to demonstrate them. In addition, while the average educational level of young Southern European cohorts may have improved over the years, it often remains insufficient to meet the demands of Northern European employers in specific sectors (Lüdemann and Richter 2014). Finally, compared to the post-war context, Southern EU migrants are no longer the only ones to migrate to North Western Europe. Indeed, the growing presence of Eastern European and third country migrants has strongly mitigated the demand for Southern EU migrants over the years. As suggested by the available data, Central and Eastern European migrants occupy mostly low- and mid-skilled labour positions primarily in low value-added economic sectors (Kahanec and Kurekova 2014). Nonetheless, it should also be noted that in the post-enlargement period, the share of EU10 migrants with high educational attainment residing in the EU15 has increased substantially (Kahanec 2013). An examination of this data therefore suggests that an important number of workers accept jobs below their level of qualification.
The large volume of Central and Eastern EU migration to Northern EU Member States has consequences for the incorporation into the labour market of new Southern EU migrants who move to the same area. The concentration of Central and Eastern migrants in elementary occupations constitutes an important obstacle to the successful incorporation of new low-skilled migrants from Southern Europe. For this reason, the skills level is becoming an increasingly important factor driving the successful labour market integration of new Southern European migrants, as will be shown in the following section.
11.4 Socio-demographic Composition of South European Migrants
11.4.1 Age Composition
Data presented in the country chapters confirms that newly arrived South European migrants are of a particularly young age. Sources from sending southern countries report increasing proportions of people of a young age residing abroad, which is consistent with employment statistics from the main receiving countries, such as the UK or Germany, where sharp increases in the number of southerners finding a job there correlate with increases in the proportions of the “under 30 age group”. We relate this trend, mentioned in previous sections of this chapter, to a strong “insider-outsider” fragmentation of the labour market, characteristic of Southern economies, whereby precarious employment is disproportionally more prevalent among the young, often irrespective of their educational attainment. As will be shown in the following sections, current South to North migration cannot be described as the result only of the movement of those with the lowest educational or occupational profiles, i.e., those who might consider migrating based on “push” factors. Though this sort of migration may describe the circumstances of the majority of Portuguese or Greek migrants to the UK, it does not reflect accurately the circumstances of most Italians and Spaniards (see Chap. 10 of this volume) and it does not explain why many well-educated Greeks are moving abroad. In fact, the data suggests that migration is becoming a strategy adopted by an increasing number of young well-educated southerners, who move north seeking better career prospects and professional development, neither of which is available at home. The crisis has exacerbated the negative effects on the employability of the young in the segmented Southern European labour markets, which have always been unfriendly towards them. From this perspective, and as will be argued in the concluding sections of this chapter, the migration of skilled South Europeans to Northern Europe may not be regarded exclusively as a new form of “brain drain” but rather as a response by skilled professionals to avoid their own “brain waste”.
11.4.2 Educational Attainment
New Southern European migrants are not only fewer in number than during the post-war context, they also constitute a more diverse group. As Table 11.4 shows, an increasing proportion of these migrants are skilled professionals. Indeed, the educational composition of EU28 migrants has changed significantly during the crisis. Between 2007 and 2012, a general reduction in the stock of EU28 migrants with only primary education is observed in favour of an increase in the stocks of those with a secondary and a university education. However, this shift has not taken place equally in all countries. While the United Kingdom and Luxembourg seem to have specialized in attracting the highly educated (and reducing the proportion of both those with a primary and a secondary education in their labour markets), other countries seem to have attracted workers with both a secondary and a university education (Germany, France, Belgium).
The Eurostat statistics do not differentiate between Eastern and Southern Europeans. Nevertheless, the country chapters in this volume, as well as other recent studies, do provide relevant data suggesting that the presence of highly-educated young professionals is above average among South Europeans. This is particularly the case among Italians and Spaniards (see Kaczmarczyk and Stanek 2015). In Germany, as explained in Chap. 9 of this volume, this has been caused by a significant increase in the demand for highly qualified labour, which, to date, has not been satisfied by introducing either national level recruitment schemes or EU-level regulations, such as the introduction of the EU Blue Card (see Cerna and Czaika 2015) However, the volume of flows has failed to match the expectations of governments and employers, and numbers are far below those observed in the UK. Available data discussed in the country chapters on Italy and Spain also confirms a considerable increase in the total number and proportion of highly-educated people migrating to Northern Europe. This trend should not hide the fact that the unskilled still represent an important share of South to North migratory flows (about one third in Germany and in the UK). In fact, there is some controversy over the extent to which migration of unskilled migrants is going largely “undetected” by official statistics, given the allegedly higher tendency among the low educated to work in the shadow economy or as self-employed and to avoid de-registering as residents in their home countries. Nevertheless, taking all these considerations together, it is evident that an increasingly large number of southerners with a university degree are moving north.
Even though the higher levels of education of southern migrants may partly reflect the increase in the overall educational level of the young cohorts, other factors can also be identified to explain the growing presence of the highly educated among those who leave Southern Europe. Indeed, we believe that this trend reveals an increasing selectivity in current migratory flows, which we attribute to changes in labour demand. These changes are related firstly, to the ever-growing importance of knowledge-based sectors in the economic structure of Northern European countries and secondly, to changes in the socio-demographic characteristics of young Southern Europeans. As mentioned in previous sections of this chapter, low-educated Southern Europeans lack informal networks in the main destination countries, whose presence might otherwise ease their entrance into local labour markets. Moreover, competition from Eastern and Central Europeans also constitutes a major factor that limits job opportunities for unskilled southerners. Furthermore, a large number of these unskilled Southern Europeans can count on alternative strategies to migration, since the conditions in southern countries have improved with respect to the decades prior to the Oil Crisis. Unemployment benefits, parental help, employment in the shadow economy or the pursuit of further education can be reasonable alternatives to migration, at least for a period of time. Highly skilled young Southern Europeans, by contrast, do have clearer incentives to migrate to northern countries. There, the demand for labour is more suited to their skills, making them less dependent on informal networks for their insertion into the labour market. In addition, as mentioned previously, career prospects in the typically fragmented labour markets of Southern European countries, where young people are often marginalized as “outsiders” regardless of their educational attainment, have worsened considerably during the crisis, making them more open to the idea of migrating. All these factors may have contributed to keeping the levels of migration from South to North relatively low in absolute numbers while favouring an increase in the proportion of the highly educated.
11.4.3 Employment and Occupational Status of South European Migrants
As indicated previously, the outbreak of the economic crisis had negative consequences on the labour market all over the EU. However, the duration and scale of the deterioration of employment opportunities among EU28 migrants has varied considerably from country to country. Data presented in Table 11.5 indicates that unemployment among EU28 migrants has decreased in Germany (as well as among its native population), increased moderately in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark and has increased sharply in Southern European countries (especially in Greece and Spain but less in Italy) and in Ireland.
It is worth mentioning that Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom have not seen a major increase in EU28 migrant unemployment, despite being the three countries where the stock of EU28 migrants has increased the most since the beginning of the crisis. Particularly interesting is the case of the United Kingdom. This country seems to have become a remarkably attractive destination for EU nationals, who look for better opportunities outside their native countries, a situation confirmed by data provided in the country chapters on the UK, Italy and Spain. In the UK, the proportion of EU28 immigrants arriving between 2007 and 2012 constituted 32.7 %, although unemployment amongst this group has not increased significantly.
Although sufficient data is lacking in order to fully assess the labour market attainments of the different educational categories of new Southern EU migrants in Northern EU countries, data presented in the country chapters draws a picture of increasing diversity. While low-educated migrants seem to have a poor chance of successful labour market insertion in Germany, the highly skilled may integrate rather well. This is particularly the case for those recruited by the various agencies operating to attract highly skilled professionals into the German labour market, providing they acquire the necessary proficiency in the German language. The UK seems to be the most attractive country for migrants of all educational levels. Its particularly dynamic labour market, combined with the fact that English is the lingua franca in today's Europe, constitute two powerful elements of attraction for job seekers from all regions of the world. However, not all highly skilled migrants do find jobs appropriate to their level of education, particularly during the first year after arrival. Many find themselves working in low-profile jobs in the retail or hospitality sectors and a non-negligible number of them do return to their home countries after 1 or 2 years. This may be a disappointing outcome for these migrants, or it may be what they initially expected. During their stay in the UK, many southern migrants acquire the employment experience and proficiency in the English language that will help them to find a job back in their home country, where initial access to the labour market is particularly harsh for the young and inexperienced. Among those with a secondary level education, some may very well find better career prospects in the UK than in Germany, if their profiles match the gaps left by the British educational system. Indeed, demand for certain types of professionals in the UK in the health care and construction sectors is closely related to a lack of vocational training in these areas. Foreign workers holding qualifications in these fields have traditionally been welcomed into the British labour marked for many decades and many southerners had been profiting from this, way before the beginning of the crisis.
11.5 Concluding Remarks: From Old Routes of Mass Migration to New Routes of Individual Mobility
The economic downturn in the Southern European countries has undoubtedly contributed to the transformation of migration patterns in Europe in recent years. The most salient changes are, firstly, the drastic reduction in migration flows to Southern EU Member States and secondly, the increase in flows of South European nationals to Northern European countries. Associated with the first of these changes, there has been an important increase in former migrants to Southern Europe who either return home (mainly to Latin America or Eastern Europe) or re-emigrate to Northern Europe. Though Southern Europeans never ceased completely from migrating north (particularly the Portuguese), and flows from South to North had already begun to rise during the years prior to the financial crisis, there is scant evidence that the effects of the financial crisis on employment rates in southern countries has greatly exacerbated the trend.
A more controversial issue is the discussion over the magnitude and nature of this trend. As mentioned above, flows of South to North migration are fuelled not only by migrants born in Southern Europe but also by people born in Eastern European or Latin American countries re-emigrating in order to seek better employment opportunities. Often, these migrants move north while holding on to their Southern EU Member State passports. In addition, many native Southern Europeans are known to migrate to Northern Europe without de-registering as residents in their home countries, or else they move only on a seasonal basis. Such circumstances, among many others, contribute to make current official statistics insufficient to assess the real size and nature of current South to North migratory flows.
Although some parallels may be established between current South to North flows and those occurring prior to the Oil Crisis in the mid-1970s, the overall intensity and nature of the new trend are quite different. Southern European migrants have changed along with the socio-economic and demographic reality of the South. Nowadays, southern migrants are mainly young and much better educated than their fellow countrymen who migrated during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The causes triggering migration are also of a different nature. Current southerners do not come from the typical underdeveloped rural areas which were reservoirs of migratory outflows in the past, nor are they being recruited on a massive scale as cheap unskilled labour by employers of the manufacturing and extractive industries of northern countries. The mechanisms operating behind the increase in the number of southerners migrating north are a bit more complex than those that triggered past migratory flows between the rural South and the industrialized urban North. Clearly, the dramatic rises in unemployment levels in the South, particularly among the young, are the cornerstone of the story. The segmentation of the labour market has intensified during the crisis, causing many youngsters to lose their jobs and leaving closed for many more the doors leading to employment. And this is for an undetermined period of time and with bleak prospects for developing a professional career, particularly for the highly educated.
Current migratory flows may be greater in volume than observed in the official statistics, but they are still not comparable in size to the mass migration of the post-war decades. By contrast to the past European South-North flows, current migrations are no longer collectively organized by bilateral agreements between sending and receiving countries in order to satisfy the demands of labour-intensive sectors of the economy. Technological innovation and globalization, along with the development of national-specific institutional settings governing the labour markets in northern countries, have created a much more complex landscape of opportunities and employment niches for potential migrants from Southern Europe and other parts of the EU. Thus, the successful integration into the receiving country’s labour market is increasingly dependent on whether immigrant profiles match the specific demands of the receiving country. This reduces the opportunities for unskilled southerners, who have been the most hardly hit by the increase in unemployment rates in Southern Europe. It also puts extra pressure on the highly educated, who must adjust to specific skills requirements resulting from high specialization in high value-added sectors typical of Northern European economies. Moreover, potential southern migrants nowadays constitute a group less prone to migration, since they can gain little benefit from solid migrant networks in destination countries, due to the generational gap between post-war and current migration waves. In fact, family or informal networks may be more available if they opt to stay in their home country, where living conditions are far better than before the Oil Crisis of the 1970s. Last but not least, the presence of large numbers of Eastern Europeans in the labour markets of Northern European countries constitutes stark competition for available jobs, which limits considerably the potential demand for southern labour.
Regarding the nature of the current intra-European South-North migrations, there is growing evidence showing that an important share of these flows is of temporary or circular nature (see Chap. 5 in this volume). Although this characteristic may appear similar to post-war migrations of Southern European guest workers, differences in the institutional and economic contexts force us to question the continuity between old and new migration patterns. At the time of guest worker programmes, the principal purpose was to ensure rotation by contracting workers for a limited periods, restricting family reunion (though not systematically) and permitting workers only to access specific economic sectors and occupations. As the employment and residency permits of foreign workers were renewable and labour demand remained high at least until the early 1970s, many Southern European workers stayed in the countries of destination over long periods of them. Many of them even decided to remain there after guest workers programs finally came to an end (Castles 1986). In the current context, the EU’s freedom of movement, lowering costs of transportation and progress in communication technologies, along with the increasing deregulation of employment conditions, contributed to diversify mobility strategies as well as destinations of new Southern European migrants. In other words, South-North EU migrations, similarly to East-West migrations (Engbersen et al. 2013), now follow patterns of temporary and circular mobility rather than long-term migration patterns observed in the post-war period.
It is equally difficult to draw a clear analogy between the past guest worker programmes and the current situation of posted workers in the EU. First of all, as shown in Chaps. 3, 5 and 9, the volume of Southern European posted workers employed in Northern Europe is increasing but is still considerably lower than flows of guest workers during the post-war period. Second, unlike guest worker programmes in which sending and receiving countries’ administrations were actively involved, the recruitment of posted workers is mainly managed by temporary staffing agencies or employers (Mottweiler et al. 2014). Furthermore, the recruitment of posted workers is not geographically limited but can occur throughout the EU. Overall, posted workers may enjoy greater autonomy and flexibility in their mobility strategies compared to post-war guest workers but, as shown in this volume, weaker public oversight also exposes them to greater difficulties when it comes to enforcing rules on their employment conditions or on their access to social protection.
Given these considerations, new South-North migration has become more selective and more dependent on individual initiative in contrast with previous decades, when it was mostly (although not exclusively) based on bilateral agreements and was organized on a rather collective basis. The flows are now more open, but they are also shaped by factors such as the migrant’s skills characteristics as well as the specificities of the labour markets of receiving countries and the short-term performance of their economies. Thus, successful integration into the receiving country’s labour market is increasingly dependent on whether immigrant profiles match the specific demands of the receiving country. Though routes for mass migration open to rural unskilled southerners do not seem to be operating, certain types of professionals may find clear pathways through which to move north, on an individual basis. Engineers seem to be welcomed in Germany, and analysts, managers and health care related professionals seem to be in high demand in the UK. Experienced construction workers and other types of semi-skilled professionals may also be able to find employment opportunities. The migration of such a large number of professionals might not be necessarily regarded as examples of “brain drain” but rather as individual responses to a lack of employment opportunities in the South, where the skills of the young are often disregarded by its segmented labour market.
From this perspective, it is noteworthy to point to some dysfunctional features of the European Union, which limit mobility and discourage many potential migrants from moving abroad, or which favour mobility remaining in the shadows. Too often, national level institutional settings regulating the labour market contribute to the configuration of a rather rigid and fragmented European labour market. In addition, legislation regulating access to welfare and health care is not designed to suit the needs of migrant workers. A lot of work remains to be done by European institutions in order to ease these shortcomings. Bilateral agreements between EU Member States could contribute to easing the controversy regarding access to welfare by EU migrants. Reforming labour markets in the South and facilitating mechanisms to avoid “brain waste” while such reforms remain to be fully achieved should also be considered another priority for the near future of the EU Member States.
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Lafleur, JM., Stanek, M., Veira, A. (2017). South-North Labour Migration Within the Crisis-Affected European Union: New Patterns, New Contexts and New Challenges. In: Lafleur, JM., Stanek, M. (eds) South-North Migration of EU Citizens in Times of Crisis. IMISCOE Research Series. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-39763-4_11
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