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Bulgarian, Romanian Migrants Buoy Home Growth

Date: 21.10.2006

Financial times

Bulgarian, Romanian migrants buoy home growth, the Financial Times says in an article about the village of Feldru in northern Romania, where out of a population of 8,000, some 3,000 now live in western Europe, mostly in Spain.

The village has been stripped of people in their 20s and 30s, including the mayor's 24-year-old son and his wife who are working in Spain."They all say that if they could earn in Romania even half of what they earn in Spain and elsewhere, they would come back. But there are no jobs here," says the mayor.

Hundreds of mayors in Romania and Bulgaria are in the same position as the two countries prepare to join the European Union on January 1, the FT comments.

So are many of their counterparts in Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states, which were among the 10 countries that became EU members in 2004. Hundreds of thousands of their young adults have also gone as migrant workers to western Europe.

An estimated 2 million Romanians are employed abroad - about 20 per cent of the working-age population. They are playing a role in boosting the economy, contributing an estimated EUR 3.5 B (USD 4.4B) to EUR 4 B in remittances - enough to cover almost half the country's 2005 current account deficit.

The combined effects of growth and emigration have brought down unemployment from 8.4 per cent in 2002 to 5 per cent. This compares with a 15 per cent level in Poland, the largest source of central and east European migration.

EU governments worry that Romania's accession will prompt another migration wave. Migration experts are cautious about making firm pronouncements after failing to predict correctly the scale of emigration from the current member states of central Europe, especially the numbers moving to the UK and Ireland. However, Romanian demographers do not foresee any spectacular new outflows.

Economists estimate that at current economic growth rates it could take 20 years before Romanians reach the living standards of today's west Europeans.

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