Bulgarians, Romanians Cause 'Small Miracle' on Germany's Labor Market, Expert Says

Bulgaria in EU | February 5, 2015, Thursday // 12:38|  views

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The end of restrictions on free movement of Bulgarian and Romanian workers has led to a "small miracle" on the labor market in Germany, a scholar has argued.

Prof Herbert Br?cker has cited data from his Nuremberg Institute for Employment Research, which recently prepared a study [DE] on the impact on Germany of Bulgarians and Romanians' free movement across the EU.

As of January 1, 2014 limitations were dropped for citizens of both countries under an agreement which kept them in force within a seven-year period after the two member states' accession into the EU.

The event triggered a populist backlash in Germany and elsewhere, with populist parties in the north of Europe arguing a tidal wave of Bulgarians and Romanians would arrive to make use of the receiving countries' social systems, also boosting unemployment among locals.

However, there is no evidence of any "abuse" of social benefits among immigrants from these countries, Prof Br?cker says.

The results reveal that free movement has resulted in a 14-percent increase in employment among Bulgarians and Romanians, a figure suggesting the number of people who found work is higher than that of newcomers. This is "something of a precedent in Germany's economy," Prof Br?cker told DW in an interview.

"In this sense, free movement of Bulgarians and Romanians is a big success, both for the labor market and for the social system of Germany - because those who work also pay taxes."

The average percent of Germans receiving unemployment benefits or other kinds of grants from the social system has remained relatively low among the two groups of immigrants against the backdrop of an overall increase (14%, up from 10%) for Germany in 2014.

But Br?cker also pointed out that while Romanians are among the groups of immigrants boasting the most successful "integration" into Germany's society (and are put on a par with French, British and North American expats), unemployment among Bulgarians is two times higher compared to that among citizens from the neighboring country.

About 7.1% of Romanians in Germany are jobless, a little below the overall average value, and Bulgarians out of the labor market were 15.5%. The data from November of last year, however, suggests Bulgarian immigrants in Germany are ranking average in terms of unemployment, and free movement has not pushed the number of those out of work to the extreme, contrary to warnings of some German parties.

Bulgarians receiving benefits are also three times more than Romanians using grants from the social system.

"In our opinion, the explanation is that social groups coming from Bulgaria and Romania are different," Prof Br?cker believes.

He also ruled out that "social tourism" could be widespread among immigrants from the two countries, adding a total of 195 "suspicious" cases had been registered among the two groups, much lower compared to the figure about Germans themselves.

According to the study, a vast number of the Bulgarians and Romanians who have moved to Germany since the beginning of 2014 have a good education and have been able to find a good job.

In November 2014, the share of those who have a job among the two groups was 255 000, 110 000 up from the figure of November 2013. Within the same period, average unemployment of Bulgarians and Romanians in Germany dipped 0.4 percent. This suggests they have a labor force participation rate of 70-75 percent, which includes both self-employed and season workers.

The number of immigrants from both countries is up 30 percent (124 000 people) within a year, compared to an increase of 90 000 throughout 2013.

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Tags: Germany, immigrants, Bulgarians, Romanians


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