Press Releases

UNIS/INF/139
27 April 2006

New EU Member States Aim to Attract Highly Educated Migrants 

VIENNA, 27 April (UN Information Service) -- International migration and development is the focus of the recently released World Population Monitoring Report of the United Nations Secretary-General. The Report addresses the demographic, social and economic aspects of international migration in relation to development and analyzes recent international migration trends. The Report focuses on this topic in preparation for the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, to be held in New York on 14 and 15 September 2006.

Highlights of the 2005 Report: the number of international migrants in the world reached 191 million;  six out of every 10 migrants live in developed countries; the proportion of women and girls among international migrants was 50 per cent in 2005; in Europe, female migrants accounted for over 53 per cent; between 2010 and 2030, net migration will likely account for virtually all the population growth in more developed regions and Europe's population would have been decreasing since 1995, had it not been for net migration.

Substantial changes in Government perceptions of migration trends have taken place since 1990 in many countries. While the proportion of Governments aiming to reduce immigration peaked in 1996 at 40 per cent, this figure has fallen almost by half, and many receiving countries have actively adopted and amended legislation to facilitate the inflow of the types of migrants they need.

Migration trends in Central and Eastern Europe have been strongly influenced by historic events such as the break-up of the Soviet Union or the accession to the European Union (EU) of several Central and Eastern European countries in 2004.

According to the Report, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the fall of the iron curtain led to increased migration from Central and Eastern European countries to Western Europe. At present, there are increasing flows of temporary workers from the new EU member States to other countries in Europe. In 2002, for instance, over 90 per cent of the labour migration directed to Germany originated in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland. There is also a rising number of Polish workers in the United Kingdom. With the opening of the borders within Europe, the number of bilateral labour agreements in the region increased fivefold in the early 1990s.  

The education levels of migrants are rising. Worldwide, the numbers of foreign-born persons aged 25 years or over with tertiary education rose from 41 per cent of the migrant population in 1990 to 44 per cent in 2000. In Europe, the number and proportion of highly educated migrants is much lower than the global average: only 15 per cent in 1990 and 21 per cent in 2000.

In response, new EU member States have started to promote immigration actively in line with national needs to an increasing degree. For instance, the Czech Republic promotes immigration actively to increase the number of admissions in line with national needs and in 2003 began to recruit highly skilled foreign workers using a points system.  Poland and Slovakia are - along with Spain - the countries in Europe with the highest number of labour agreements. Romania is an exception; it is one of only six developed countries that wish to reduce immigration.

Further milestones for Central and Eastern Europe will be the accession of countries in the region to the Schengen Agreement in 2007 and the expiry of restrictions on the intra-Union mobility of citizens of new EU countries in 2011. The new Schengen member States will have to tighten external borders while relaxing internal border controls.

Austria, along with Germany, is one of the two EU member States likely to experience the largest inflows of migrants resulting from the lifting of restrictions on migration on the new EU member States. Although migration flows might increase once restrictions to free movement are lifted, wages and employment would be minimally affected, says the Report. A first step towards settlement abroad is often migration for education. In Austria, foreign students receiving degrees in information technology may adjust status, gain access to the labour market and apply for residence. Similar to other countries in the region, Austria is trying to increase the number and proportion of highly educated migrants.

Recognizing the benefits that diversity brings to their society, receiving countries are increasingly adopting policies that focus on the integration of migrants. Integration initiatives recognize the importance of avoiding all types of discrimination and generally include provisions to protect religious freedom and offer special language training. A major source of concern regarding the integration prospects of migrant communities is the often poor academic performance of the second generation and the greater likelihood of unemployment and welfare dependency among migrants than among non-migrants.  In the EU, for instance, unemployment levels among foreigners are almost twice as high as those among EU citizens. To improve the labour-market performance of migrants, several receiving countries have training programmes, often focusing specifically on migrant women who tend to have greater limitations in finding jobs.

For receiving countries, the economic consequences of international migration is generally positive, revolving around the impact of migrants on the wages and employment opportunities of native workers and the net fiscal balance associated with international migration, since migrants pay taxes but also increase public expenditures on health, education and other public goods and services. Although the presence of international migrants may have a small adverse effect on the wages of non-migrants or may raise unemployment when wages are rigid, such effects are small at the national level. Over the medium and long term, migration can generate employment and produce net fiscal gains. Studies in rapidly ageing populations indicate that international migrants can contribute substantially to relieving the fiscal burden on future generations.                                                                      

* *** *

Note:  The above press release focuses on those countries directly serviced by the United Nations
Information Service (UNIS) Vienna (Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia) and where UNIS Vienna
provides strategic guidance and support (Czech Republic, Poland and Romania). 

To read the full Report, visit:

http://www.un.org/esa/population/cpd/comm2006.htm