Since the end of World War II, Europe has experienced large-scale migration both internally and from the outside the EU. In this contribution, we focus on intra-European migration flows from Southern and Eastern Europe to the rest of Europe. We compare Southern and Eastern European migration patterns with figures on internal European migration from the rest of the EU and on migration from non-EU countries. This provides a broader picture of a changing and dynamic migrant reservoir in Europe over time. We use a combination of secondary sources, analysis of descriptive macro data on migration flows, and econometric analysis of micro data on labour market outcome of migrants with an emphasis on youth, in accordance with the STYLE project focus. Our research was concentrated on five key questions.

How do intra-European and non-EU migration flows compare over time?

The descriptive analysis using aggregate country data suggests that even though migration from non-European countries is very substantial, the intra-European flows from Southern and Eastern Europe are non-negligible, with comparable emigration rates and differing trends and composition in the post-war period.

How did the composition of intra-European flows change over time?

Has there been a shift with an increase of more young migrants from Southern Europe than from Eastern Europe? Geographical proximity matters: Spanish inflows to France or Polish inflows to Germany are very common. But since the early 2000s, Spanish migrants are heading instead to the UK and Polish migrants are going to Ireland.

How are migratory trends related to political developments?

The fall of the Iron Curtain and the expansion of EU membership saw new waves of migration in the past twenty years, which were further accelerated by the EU accession. Since the mid-1970s, post-war European guest-worker programmes have targeted low-skilled, male and relatively young workers from Southern Europe, Turkey, Yugoslavia and the Maghreb. More recent waves of migration have included more asylum-seekers and refugees since the 1990s. Only since the 2000s has high-skilled large-scale labour migration gained more prominence in Europe.

How do young EU migrants’ outcomes differ from those of non-EU migrants?

The econometric analysis, using pooled micro data from a Europe-wide survey, suggests that observable characteristics explain part, but not all, of the differential labour market performance of the migrants. Young migrants from both Eastern and Southern Europe are more likely to be overqualified than young native-born workers.

We also find important gender gaps: male migrants have higher rates of employment and work longer hours, across all migrant groups, especially amongst non-EU migrants, where more traditional gender norms may apply (Zuccotti and O’Reilly forthcoming). To address this gap, policy-makers could take a targeted approach, whereby they inform migrant women about existing facilities, such as family-friendly work schedules and access to childcare.

To tackle issues of persisting native–migrant gaps in labour market performance, policies could be geared toward further integration and non-discriminatory treatment of foreign-born residents in the destination labour markets. Employers could use anonymous job applications to avoid discriminatory hiring based on ethnicity.

On the education–occupation mismatch issue, better screening and more transparent evaluation schemes could be developed to compare and recognise the degrees, qualifications and skills possessed by migrants so that their skills and competences could be put to better use in destination countries. An innovative new tool − geared at non-EU nationals who are more disadvantaged in terms of labour market outcomes than EU migrants (Akgüç and Beblavý forthcoming; Spreckelsen, Leschke and Seeleib-Kaiser forthcoming) − is the development of a new EU Skills Profile Tool for Third Country Nationals. Similarly, mechanisms that facilitate international skill transferability and on-the-job training possibilities could be offered to young migrants so as to avoid skill mismatches in occupations.


Akgüç, Mehtap, and Miroslav Beblavý. 2015. Re-emerging Migration Patterns: Structures and Policy Lessons. STYLE Working Paper WP6.3 Re-emerging Migration Patterns: Structures and Policy Lessons

Akgüç, Mehtap, and Miroslav Beblavý. Forthcoming. ‘What Happens to Young People Who Move Country to Find Work?’ In Youth Labor in Transition, edited by Jacqueline O’Reilly, Janine Leschke, Renate Ortlieb, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser and Paola Villa. New York: Oxford University Press.

Spreckelsen, Thees, Janine Leschke and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser. Forthcoming. ‘Europe’s Promise for Jobs? Labor Market Integration of Young EU Migrant Citizens in Germany and the United Kingdom’. In Youth Labor in Transition, edited by Jacqueline O’Reilly, Janine Leschke, Renate Ortlieb, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser and Paola Villa. New York: Oxford University Press.

Zuccotti, Carolina V., and Jacqueline O’Reilly. Forthcoming. ‘Do scarring Effects Vary by Ethnicity and Gender?’ In Youth Labor in Transition, edited by Jacqueline O’Reilly, Janine Leschke, Renate Ortlieb, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser and Paola Villa. New York: Oxford University Press.