A young student discusses the determinants of migration in the European Union

Written by Ardian Shala, Masters student at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.

Ardian Shala is a Masters student at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.

Ardian Shala is a Masters student at Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences.

Traditional definitions of migration consider it to be a durable movement of individuals across distances (Shaw, 1975). Migration has two components, namely time and distance. Migrants move across a distance to settle in a host country where they generally remain for a relatively permanent period of time. In literature, migration has been linked to economic benefits as well as social advantages including but not limited to social wellbeing.

In this rapidly developing world migration has undoubtedly become one of the most pressing issues of our time. Research evidence suggests that during the last 10 years roughly 10% of citizens of the EU 15 countries have migrated to another country, with stays in the host country being temporary or permanent.

The movements of people across international borders has huge economic, social and cultural implications for both origin and destination countries. Unfortunately, it is not yet clearly understood which determinants impact migration within The EU. Literature supports the hypothesis that people migrate because of economic reason with studies finding evidence that all forms of migration are at least partly impacted by material gains (Grogger and Hanson, 2008). Interestingly enough, a number of studies have provided evidence that employment and income do not impact the rate of migration across countries of the European Economic Area as previously postulated (Wissen & Visser, 1998). In the study of Wissen and Vissar (1998) which included 16 EEA Member States, 15 EU Member States as well as Norway, GDP and unemployment do not influence migration flows.

Migration is an important determinant of economic growth in the EU. Of special importance in this regards is labor mobility as it results in economic resources enabling increased welfare and most importantly increased outputs (Zimmermann, 2009). Consequently, understanding what influences migration is of special importance.

Many experts consider Germany to be an interesting country to study labor migration to urban areas. In the country there are rather visible labor market characteristics across regions in addition to striking differences in amenities between cities.


Migration of labor is important to be considered because it generally results in a number of positive effects (Zimmermann, 2005). This type of migration, in more cases than not, results in better utilization of resources as a result of which production and welfare are enhanced. Consequently, the benefits of worker mobility are great.

Unfortunately, Europe is failing to benefit from such an opportunity. At present Europe is characterized by a lack of mobility as opposed to having too much of it (Zimmermann, 2009) which has ultimately raised the question of the economic future of the union.

According to Eurostat (2008), 13% of people who migrated to Germany stated that the main reason of migration was work. In France and the Netherlands the ratio was migrants who migrated for work purposes was lower with 7% and 8% respectively. In Belgium 12% of migrants came because they found jobs in the country, and 14% of overall migrants in Italy stated work as their main motivator to move. Of all countries included in the study, Luxembourg showed the highest percentage of migrants who emphasized job opportunities in the country (35%). These results suggest that more research needs to be done in order to discover what truly motivates people to migrate within the EU.

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