- 8 eastern European member states acceded to the EU on 1 January 2004:
- The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia & Slovakia.
- They are known as the A8/Accession 8 countries.
- The EU has an 'open border' policy for both trade & people (the 1995 Schengen Agreement removed border controls between many European countries).
- Migration to the UK from A8 countries has been on a much bigger scale than that to all other EU countries.
- In 2003, the government estimated that the number of migrants who might move to the UK in 2004-05 were 20 000-40 000. Over 200 000 immigrants arrived.
Pull factors for migrants from the A8
- In 2004, A8 countries didn't have right of free movement except by the UK, Ireland & Sweden, which narrowed the choices for potential migrants.
- The developed economy of the UK is a magnet for migrants seeking work & opportunities.
- The UK has a reputation for tolerance towards migrants.
- A growing, low-unemployment economy was in need of low-wage labour.
- The intervening obstacles for new migrants were relatively minor since:
- a worker registration scheme allowed migrants right of entry & the right to work
- cheap bus & air travel reduced costs
- existing established immigrant groups, such as the Poles, provided community & cultural support for newcomers
- immigrant-friendly services, such as 'Polish' UK bank accounts, were quickly set up, allowing remittances to be sent back home.
The number of migrants grew quickly from almost none in January 2004 to 665 000 resident migrants by late 2007. Most work in low-paid temporary jobs in agriculture/services such as catering. They are spead across the UK, including rural areas such as the Scottish Highlands.
Source countries (A8) - Costs and Benefits
- Loss of workforce, 7% in Poland & 10% in Lithuania.
- Brain drain & skills shortages, skilled migrants such as plumbers & doctors have left Poland.
- Ageing & reduced fertility at home, Poland's population could decline from 38 to 33 million by 2050.
- Most migrants are young males creating an imbalance at home.
- Some workers exploited by gang-masters & are paid less than minimum wage.
- Remittances, workers send 25% of earnings home.
- For Poland this meant €6.4 bn in 2006.
- Higher wages, A8 migrants average £6 per hour, higher than at home.
- Skills can be taken back, e.g. English & IT skills.
- Working A8 migrants abroad do not need benefit payments.
Host country (UK) - Costs and Benefits
- Social/cultural tensions, especially in rural areas with no history of immigration.
- A rise in low-level 'cultural unfamiliarity' crime e.g. road traffic offences.
- UK population growth to 65 million by 2016, 20% of babies are born to recent migrants (8%) of general population.
- Downward pressure on wages as A8 migrants 'undercut' low-wage Britons.
- Pressure on space & housing causing locally rising housing costs.
- Pressure on local schools, the NHS & council services.
- Skills gaps filled in industries, e.g. fish processing in the Highlands & farming in the Fens.
- Economic turnaround in areas such as South Lincolnshire where 10% of the population are A8 migrants, meaning more local spending.
- Business opportunities for banks & supermarkets providing Polish food & services.
- Counteracts aging if migrants stay & have children.
(Approximately 1 mn A8 migrants have come to the UK since 2004, but around 350 000 have returned home. Much of this migration is temporary economic migration.)
The migration of A8 countries to the UK has slowed since 2008 because:
- A8 economies like Poland were less badly hit by the global recession than the UK. In the UK unemployment increased in 2008-10 so there were fewer job opportunities for migrants.
- The falling value of the UK pound has reduced the value of remittances sent home by A8 workers.
- In 2011, all EU countries must be fully open to A8 migration & many migrants will 'divert' to other countries.
The A2 countries, Romania & Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, had restrictions placed on free migration. These restrictions will be gradually lifted up to 2013.