Will Current Intra-EU Migrants Return Home on Retirement? Evidence from the Experience of Earlier Waves of Migrants from Southern to Northern Europe

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
H007 (28 rue des Saints-Pères)
Paul Bridgen , Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, University of Southampton
Traute Meyer , Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, University of Southampton
With the accession of the former Eastern bloc countries to the EU since the late 1990s East-West migration increased and the social rights of mobile workers are now receiving greater consideration. Yet, attention has focused on the current social policy implications, neglecting what will happen when migrants retire. According to the economics literature they will return to their country of origin, but there are good reasons to assume that significant numbers will stay permanently in their host country because they have become socially integrated. Certainly, the longer migrants stay, the more likely it is that they will remain (eg Edin et al 2000).

Empirically, there is a lack of knowledge about this situation, meaning that EU governments currently have few means of gauging the future fiscal implications of current migration, in terms of pensions, health and housing, for example. This paper aims to draw conclusions about the decision likely to be faced by today’s migrants when they retire by analysing past decisions under similar circumstances. We explore the situation of EU migrants who moved from the South to North in the early years of European integration, using data from the OECD’s new Database on Immigrants and the European Commission’s Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE). This data indicates that a large proportion of migrants stayed in their host country on retirement, notwithstanding a financial situation significantly worse than average and often below the relative poverty line.