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May 14, 2012 | 12:44 GMT

5 mins read

European Immigration and Emigration

From 2007 to 2011, emigration grew drastically in Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece and grew moderately in Italy. Combined with a decline in immigration rates, this growth has turned Ireland, Spain and Portugal into net emigration countries. In turn, Greece and Italy are facing increased population outflows

To a certain extent, the financial crisis has returned these countries to their traditional emigration profiles. Most emigrants are foreign nationals because unemployment rates are usually higher among this demographic. However, some reports suggest that substantial numbers of Spanish, Irish, Portuguese, Italian and Greek nationals, particularly those with higher educations, are moving abroad.


Top 6 Destinations of Emigrants - Portugal

Portugal has been a country of net immigration since its accession to the European Union in the mid-1980s, but the international financial crisis changed that trend. Preliminary data released in late March suggests that 2011 had the highest number of emigrants since 1970, when Portugal was still ruled by a military dictatorship.
Portuguese emigrants were low-skilled workers who left the country to work in sectors such as construction or agriculture. However, recent research indicates that Portugal has the second highest emigration rate of tertiary-educated workers in Europe.
Most Portuguese citizens are moving to Western European countries. However, a new trend is developing as many of them are now moving to three former Portuguese colonies with high growth rates and cultural ties: Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. The migration to Angola and Mozambique is due to the economic growth that these countries are experiencing as a result of the expansion of oil and natural gas sectors. These industries also create urbanization and new demands within the technology, energy, agriculture and professional service sectors.


Top 5 Destinations of Emigrants - Ireland

Ireland has long been a country of emigration. This situation changed in the mid-1990s, when Ireland became a net immigration country for the first time in decades. Between 1999 and 2008 Ireland's population increased by 18 percent — the highest rate in the 27 EU members countries — accordingly.

However, the international financial crisis hit Ireland hard, reduced economic activity while increasing unemployment. This returned Ireland to its traditional profile as an emigration country. For the Irish, language seems to be the main criterion for choosing where to relocate. Australia and the United Kingdom are the main destination countries for Irish emigrants, while New Zealand, Canada and the United States are also popular. Emigration to other Western European countries decreased as the crisis reduced the availability of jobs in continental Europe.

In 2007, roughly 10 percent of emigrants from Ireland were Irish nationals; by the beginning of 2011, this figure had risen to 40 percent. Preliminary data suggests that by late 2011, Irish nationals accounted for 50 percent of all emigrants from Ireland.


Top 5 Destinations of Emigrants - Greece

Despite the financial crisis, Greek emigration and immigration are balanced. The high rate of immigration to Greece is explained by two factors. Many immigrants see Greece as a key entry point to the European Union — and thus into countries participating in the Schengen Treaty, which allows the free movement of people across borders. Because of this, immigration from the Balkan countries and Turkey has remained high despite the economic crisis in Greece. In addition, increased immigration controls in other countries traditionally used for entering Europe, such as Spain and Italy, have relegated Greece to one of the only serviceable entry points. But many immigrants lack the resources to continue moving once inside Greece. This situation is currently creating social tensions as Greeks and foreigners compete in a contracting labor market.

Greece technically became a net emigration country in 2010. Germany is the major destination for many emigrants, followed by the United States and Australia, where there are large Greek communities. According to Germany's Federal Statistics Office, there was an 84 percent increase in Greek migration to Germany during the first quarter of 2011.


Top 5 Destinations of Emigrants - Italy

So far the financial crisis has had little impact on Italy's migratory flows, and Italy is still an important destination for immigration. This is primarily because Italy was the last of the eurozone periphery countries to implement austerity measures. And despite the small growth that the Italian economy has shown over the last decade, the country still has an unemployment rate below 10 percent.

Although emigration of nationals is proportionally lower in Italy than in countries like Spain or Ireland, the characteristics of its migrants are the same. An investigation of the Italian General Confederation of Labor and the Italian Federation of Emigration and Immigration found that Italian emigrants are mostly university graduates or highly skilled workers. Germany, Switzerland and France are major emigrant destinations because of geographic proximity and opportunities to earn better salaries.


Emigration in 2011 - Ireland and Spain

The financial crisis turned Spain from an immigration haven into a net emigration country. The high rate of unemployment in Spain explains this phenomenon: A quarter of Spain's labor force is unemployed; among those under 25 years of age, the unemployment rate is 50 percent. So far it is mostly low-skilled foreign workers who are leaving the country — unemployment among foreigners with a primary education or less is almost twice as high among foreigners with a university degree. However, 20 percent of emigrants from Spain are Spanish nationals.


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