From Brain Drain and Brain Gain to Brain Circulation: Towards a More Social Europe

by Kathleen Beger and Ulf Brunnbauer

Weak economies and a lack of professional prospects have had a significant impact on migration movement from Central and (South)East European countries to Germany over the past two decades. The EU Eastern Enlargement in 2004, 2007 and 2013, together with the freedom of movement in the EU, as well as visa liberalisation for non-EU countries, and programmes implemented by Germany to facilitate the immigration of skilled workers from third countries have accelerated this process. Thus, between 2015 and 2021, a net total of more than 1.1 million people from the Danube region — Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Ukraine1 — moved to Germany.2 For some of these countries, emigration has become a major drag on their economic performance because of the ensuing lack of especially skilled labour. For Germany’s economy, however, immigration has become an important source of economic growth.

  1. All data related to Ukraine refers to the time before Russia launched its war on 24 February 2022. []
  2. Statistisches Bundesamt (Destatis), 2022 | 24.11.2022 / 10:32:57 (The exact number is 1.130.890). It is not specified whether these people arrived in Germany from their countries of origin or from other countries. []
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