No ′Polish Plumber′ Wave -- Migration Low After EU Expansion | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 17.11.2008
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No 'Polish Plumber' Wave -- Migration Low After EU Expansion

Contrary to popular belief, the European Union's expansion towards central and Eastern Europe has not sparked a massive influx of Polish plumbers or Bulgarian builders to the bloc's richest nations, figures due out Tuesd

Polish plumber

Despite the hopes of probably more than a few French, Polish plumbers like this one did not overrun France like an anti-EU campaign had warned

According to the European Commission's latest report, more and more workers from the EU's 12 newest member states have been relocating to Germany or Britain since being allowed to move freely around the 27-member bloc.

However, their numbers remain small in relative terms. In fact, the EU's richer nations continue to receive a far higher share of foreign immigrants from the developing world.

For instance, the number of Bulgarians and Romanians who found a job in one of the EU's 15 older member states grew to 1.6 million in 2007, up from 1.3 million in 2006 -- when those two countries were not yet part of the EU. Most of them have headed to Spain and Italy.

But Bulgarians and Romanians still account for just 0.4 percent of the total population of the EU's richest nations, compared to 0.3 percent in 2006.

Meanwhile, citizens from Poland and from the other nine countries that joined the EU in 2004 now account for 0.5 percent of the resident population of the EU's richest nations, up from 0.3 percent in 2004. Of the about 2 million who have left their home country, most have moved to Ireland and Britain.

Non-EU Immigration Up

By contrast, the number of non-EU citizens now living in the EU-15 has increased from 14 million in 2003 to 17.4 million in 2007.

Concerns about the invasion of "Polish plumbers" -- a symbol of cheap labor -- are thought to have played a major role in convincing many French to vote "no" in 2005 in a referendum on the now defunct EU constitution.

But commission figures show that the share of foreign residents from new EU member states has remained stable at 0.1 percent since 2003.

Officials in Brussels were expected to conclude on the basis of the report that enlargement has not led to major disturbances to the labor markets of the EU's richest member states.

Despite this, Austria and Germany are still considering extending limits on the influx of workers from some of the new EU countries.

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