Where Professionals Want to Migrate within the European Union

Moreover, many LinkedIn users who would consider moving east often already live in the region or close to it. “For Bulgaria, for example, it’s people from Austria or Greece or from countries such as Romania and the Czech Republic who are more open to relocating there. It’s much more likely that people from the region or from neighboring countries are interested in moving to Eastern Europe,” says Zagheni.

One exception included countries with large communities of Eastern European professionals. “We see a high openness to move to Poland from Germany and the U.K. We assume that it’s partially related to return migration.” In other words: Polish professionals who want to go back home.

But why is there so little general interest in heading east? With visas and work permits not an issue in the European Union, Zagheni suspects that language barriers and weaker economies play important roles. “Given that we’re using LinkedIn data, we think that the main driver reflected in the data is employment opportunities.”

A lack of suitable jobs in a region can sometimes even hide an otherwise existing openness to move there. This is something the researchers already see with Southern Europe. While the overall numbers showed that a majority of migration-open LinkedIn users want to move north or west—into regions of the Union where jobs are plentiful—it was only when the scientists accounted for factors such as differences in population densities, internet, and LinkedIn penetration, that they realized that Southern Europe was also a much-desired destination.

Unexpectedly, there was a higher fraction of people in Northern and Western Europe who would want to move south, compared to what we would have expected to see purely based on differences in demographic factors, internet usage, and related variables. We interpret this observation as a sign of a mismatch between the lack of opportunities in Southern Europe and the number of people who would potentially want to go,” says Zagheni.

Something similar might soon come into play with Eastern Europe, he thinks. “Countries such as Romania and Poland have a lot of unfulfilled potential. Structurally, the factors might already be in place that could lead to more desire to move there. These would include a desire to return home for a large pool of highly qualified expats. Then it becomes only a matter of giving people the right incentives and opportunities.”

In addition, even now, Eastern Europe might look attractive to job seekers from elsewhere in the world, Zagheni points out. After Russia invaded Ukraine, many people moved from there to Poland or the Czech Republic. “Some of the worries that these countries have in terms of losing population may not be as dire as they might think because there might be a number of countries, including outside of the European Union, that find them particularly attractive,” he says.