Bulgarian and Romanian migration: numbers unpredictable, but impact on public services likely to be modest

Author(s): Rolfe, H Published: 05th April 2013


Bulgarian and Romanian migration: numbers unpredictable, but impact on public services likely to be modest
Independent research led by NIESR on future migration from Romania and Bulgaria, once interim restrictions are lifted at the end of the year, is published today by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The report reviews the available data and research, and considers the factors which will affect levels of migration to the UK from Bulgaria and Romania and the potential impact on services.
Numerical estimates are not reliable
The report contains no numerical estimates of the scale of future migration from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK. Future migration is highly dependent on economic, political and social factors in Bulgaria, Romania, UK, Europe and beyond. Although, given economic conditions in Bulgaria and Romania, the interest in and potential for emigration is significant, the UK is not likely to be the preferred destination.
Some migrants from Bulgaria and Romania are already in the UK
Significant migration from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK has already taken place, but is largely confined to particular sectors and to self-employment where restrictions do not apply. Therefore, some migrants who wish to live in the UK are already here but may change jobs and sectors once restrictions are lifted.
The UK as a destination of interest to migrants
Migration from Bulgaria and Romania is very largely for economic reasons, to improve employment prospects and living standards. These are higher in most other EU countries, including the UK, than in Bulgaria and Romania. Hence the potential for increased emigration is significant.
The main destinations for migrating Bulgarians and Romanians since their countries joined the EU have been Spain and Italy, since these opened their borders earlier and have similarities in language. There is evidence of longer-term settlement in these countries which may mean they continue to be more popular destinations even after restrictions are lifted across the EU. However, unemployment is high and economic prospects are uncertain on both Spain and Italy, which may restrain future migration to these countries.
While surveys in Bulgaria and Romania show some interest in migration to the UK, it is not a favoured destination and much of the interest that exists is in temporary stays rather than long-term settlement.
Characteristics of migrants
The current profile of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania to the UK is young, with a higher skill profile than other EU migrants and with men in a small majority. This is likely to reflect current restrictions, and future migrants are likely to find less skilled work, reflecting employment opportunities for migrants in the UK.
Like early arrivals from other Eastern European countries in 2007, once restrictions are lifted, most Bulgarian and Romanian migrants are likely to be young and without families, at least initially. This will limit the potential demand on services.
Potential impact on UK services
To assess the potential impact of migration from Bulgaria and Romania on UK services the researchers reviewed literature on migration from the EU8 countries, whose citizens were able to live and work in the UK from 2007. Drawing on this evidence, the report concludes that
• EU8, particularly Polish, migration was widely dispersed across the UK and many services were not well-prepared. Migration from Bulgaria and Romania is less likely to be so widely dispersed across the UK and services are now better able to address migrants' needs than in 2007.
• In relation to health services, future migration from Bulgaria and Romania is unlikely to have a significant impact. Economic migrants, in particular, are generally young and healthy and do not make major demands on health services.
• With regard to education, any migration of families may potentially increase pressure on school places at primary level in areas experiencing pressure on places. While existing evidence suggests that migrant children do not have a negative impact on school performance, language assistance will need to be provided, at least for any new arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania.
• The impact of migration on housing has received considerable media attention in recent weeks. A widespread public perception persists that migrants pose a disproportionate burden on the social housing market in particular, yet evidence to date does not substantiate this claim. Any impacts of migration on housing are more likely to be felt in the private rented sector. However, these will depend on housing supply as well as the buoyancy of local housing markets. The demands on housing are highly dependent on whether migrants settle in the longer term, and in families.
• Although there is a limited evidence base on the impact of migrants on the welfare system, studies covering Eastern European migrants find them to be less likely to claim benefits than other migrant groups or the general population. Of those who claim benefits, the majority claim child benefits.
Wider issues, including benefits to the economy from potential migration from Bulgaria and Romania and impact on particular industries were outside the scope of the research.
Notes for editor:
The research was commissioned and funded by the British Embassy in Bucharest Romania in order to estimate the potential impact of future migration on the UK, and particularly the impact on services, including education, health and housing. It included a review of data and of research literature produced in the UK and Romania and Bulgaria.
The research was carried out by NIESR researchers Heather Rolfe, Tatiana Fic and Mumtaz Lalani, with input from researchers in Romania and Bulgaria.
Heather Rolfe: h.rolfe [at] niesr.ac.uk
020 7654 1937 07766 122991

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