Return Migration: The Experience of Eastern Europe


  •  We are very grateful to Mariagnese Branchi (European Central Bank) for her generous support in constructing the dataset.


Over the last decade, a significant share of the labour force in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) has been exposed to work spells abroad followed by return migration. Although there is a growing literature on CEE return migration, most previous studies are country-specific and no enquiry for the region as a whole has been undertaken so far. In this paper, we attempt to fill this gap. We collate data from the European Union (EU) Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS) for a cross-country analysis of return migration in CEE countries. The aim of the paper is threefold. We first review the available evidence and literature on the characteristics and labour market behaviour of return migrants in CEE countries. Second, we provide a descriptive analysis of recent returnees using EU-LFS data. Third, we specifically analyse the income premia for work experience abroad, the occupational choices and the selectivity patterns of recent returnees in CEE countries from a cross-country perspective. Consistent with previous results, we find that the average income premia for work abroad range between 10 per cent and 45 per cent. Migrants are less likely to actively participate in the labour market upon return. They are, however, more likely to choose self-employment rather than dependent employment upon return. Recent migrants are also more likely to experience spells of unemployment in the first year after their return. The latter two findings are reversed, however, when adjusting for the unobserved heterogeneity of return migrants and for regional effects.