Academic journal article Trames

Dynamics of Educational Differences in Emigration from Estonia to the Old EU Member States

Academic journal article Trames

Dynamics of Educational Differences in Emigration from Estonia to the Old EU Member States

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

East-West migration became a mass phenomenon in Europe in the period from around the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 (Mansoor and Quillin 2007, Massey and Taylor 2004, Okolski 2004). Emigration from Central and Eastern European countries accelerated after the enlargement of the European Union (EU) in 2004 and 2007 (Kahanec et al. 2010). Wealth differentials between Eastern and Western Europe, and improved access to the labour markets of the old member states (EU-15 (1)) for citizens of Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries are considered to be the most important catalysts for migration within Europe, bringing about losses of skilled workers in countries of origin, and gains in skilled workers in destination countries (Castles and Miller 2009, Bonifazi et al. 2008, Favell 2008). There are different conceptualizations of what constitutes the group of skilled migrants, but the most common and accessible approach to studying this is to focus on the university-educated people (Gibson and McKenzie 2011a, 2011b).

Most of the research on the East-West migration in Europe has focused on the effects of emigration per se on the origin and destination countries and their labour markets. Comparatively little is known about the composition of migrant populations, especially how it has changed over the time. The aim of the study reported herein was to investigate differences in the composition of Estonian emigrants, with respect to their level of education, before and after EU enlargement. Barriers to emigration are usually greater for the less educated; EU enlargement reduced such barriers significantly. This makes the topic of differences in the composition of migrants with respect to their level of education in the context of East-West migration in Europe especially relevant. The Estonian case is interesting for studying the relationship between emigration and education for two reasons. First, Estonia has experienced significant emigration since 1991, as have most other countries of Eastern Europe (Tammaru et al. 2010). Second, Estonia has performed better in economic terms than many other new member states. (2) This may offer more career opportunities for the highly educated (Hazans and Philips 2010). In order to shed new light on differences with respect to education in East-West migration, our study on Estonian emigration sought to answer two main research questions:

* Are people with a university degree over-represented among emigrants from Estonia?

* Are people with lower levels of education increasing their share among emigrants from Estonia after it joined the EU in 2004?

Data for the study was drawn from the Estonian Emigration Database compiled by Statistics Estonia. One of the problems in studies of East-West migration in Europe relates to the poor quality of the available data, especially the fact that people who migrate abroad do not register their departure in the country of origin (de Beer et al. 2010). Such under-registration of emigration is also a problem in Estonia (Anniste 2009). However, Estonian data has some characteristics that increase its reliability, despite the fact that not all migrants register their departure in Estonia when leaving the country. Most important in this regard is the fact that Estonia and Finland exchange information stored in their population registers on a regular basis, because Finland is the main destination country of Estonian migrants. Data exchange with Finland has thus significantly improved the quality of emigration statistics in Estonia; people who settle for longer than one year in Finland are accorded emigrant status in the Population Register of Estonia (Anniste 2009). The Estonian data thus allows us to shed new light on the nature of the changes that have occurred in East-West migration in Europe since 2000.

2. Review of the literature on education and East-West migration in Europe

Wealth differences, the removal of restrictions on free movement of labour, reduced costs for transport and communications (including the expansion of budget airlines), the expansion of formal and informal labour recruitment networks, and initiatives by governments and employers to recruit labour into specific economic sectors have resulted in an increase and diversification of international migrant flows in Europe (Krings 2009, Salt 2008, Massey and Taylor 2004, Okolski 2004). …

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