The Free Movement of People within the European Union has become one of the hot topics surrounding the whole Brexit debate, and the following graph was born out of the desire to explore the relationship between intra-EU work restrictions on new members, and the growth dynamics of the number of immigrants from these new Eastern European states.
The initial idea was to compare the evolution of the number of New EU citizens in the Old EU member states, and especially between the the Big Three – Germany, Britain and France -, who each imposed different levels of restrictions on the 2004 wave of new member states – the wave that gave the world the image of the infamous “Polish plumber”. I wanted to see how much the presence or absence of work-restrictions slowed down immigration from the East.
Here are some of the findings:
- The UK is the only country where immigrants from EU-8 (the 2004 wave) grew as fast as those from EU-2 (Romania and Bulgaria). This later wave tended to be bigger in all countries, except the UK (and the 2013 wave, i.e. Croatia, tended to be between the two when it comes to growth)
- Work restrictions don’t seem to be the only factor in the rate of growth, but accession is clearly a tipping point when immigration accelerates. The removal of work-restrictions however are noticeable only in some cases (in Austria most clearly)
- I was surprised to see much calmer growth post-accession into Germany and Italy, but that is also due to already having larger numbers of immigrants from said countries before those countries joined the EU. The UK and Germany both ended up with 1+ million Central Europeans after 9 years, but they started out out from different base populations (136k vs. 481k)
One immediate problem that prevented me from a broader analysis was the lack of available data in some countries due to different methodologies. France, for example, does not, to my knowledge, publish an estimate on a country by country basis, the EU immigrants being divided solely into “Spain, Portugal, Italy, rest of the EU”, while other countries don’t go far enough into the past to be useful. True to stereotype, the most rigorous seem to be the Germanic nations, which is somewhat fortunate since German-speaking countries and Scandinavian ones are preferred destinations of intra-EU migration. Also, the numbers in Italy after 2011 are based on the census of 2011, but the data before that year, overestimating the number of immigrants, hasn’t been revised, and I had to revise the data myself, so as to not have an odd sudden drop around 2011.
Made in Python w/ Matplotlib (lineplots), LibreCalc (work restriction viz) and Inkscape.