High-Skilled Labor Mobility in Europe Before and After the 2004 Enlargement

22 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2016 Last revised: 21 Feb 2017

See all articles by Alexander Michael Petersen

Alexander Michael Petersen

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program

Michelangelo Puliga

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies

Date Written: Feb 20, 2017


The extent to which international high-skilled mobility channels are forming is a question of great importance in an increasingly global knowledge-based economy. One factor facilitating the growth of high-skilled labor markets is the standardization of certifiable degrees meriting international recognition. Within this context, we analyzed an extensive high-skilled mobility database comprising roughly 382,000 individuals from 5 broad profession groups (Medical, Education, Technical, Science & Engineering, and Business & Legal) over the period 1997-2014, using the 13-country expansion of the European Union (EU) to provide insight into labor market integration. We compare the periods before and after the 2004 enlargement, showing the emergence of a new East-West migration channel between the 13 mostly eastern EU entrants (E) and the rest of the western European countries (W). Indeed, we observe a net directional loss of human capital from E -> W, representing 29% of the total mobility after 2004. Nevertheless, the counter-migration from W -> E is 7% of the total mobility over the same period, signaling the emergence of brain circulation within the EU. Our analysis of the country-country mobility networks and the country-profession bipartite networks provides timely quantitative evidence for the convergent integration of the EU, and highlights the central role of the UK and Germany as high-skilled labor hubs.

We conclude with two data-driven models to explore the structural dynamics of the mobility networks. First, we operationalize a redistribution model to explore the potential ramifications of Brexit, showing the extent to which a 'hard' Brexit, i.e. complete disintegration from the EU, may benefit the overall homogeneity of the European mobility network. Second, we use a panel regression model to explain empirical high-skilled mobility rates in terms of various economic `push-pull' factors, the results of which show that government expenditure on education, per-capita wealth, geographic proximity, and labor force size are significant attractive features of destination countries.

Keywords: European Union, Brain drain, Brain circulation, mobility, high-skilled labor, labor markets, Brexit, Push-pull model

JEL Classification: J61, O52, O15, F22, F02

Suggested Citation

Petersen, Alexander Michael and Puliga, Michelangelo, High-Skilled Labor Mobility in Europe Before and After the 2004 Enlargement (Feb 20, 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2796851 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2796851

Alexander Michael Petersen (Contact Author)

University of California Merced, Ernest and Julio Gallo Management Program ( email )

School of Engineering
Science & Engineering 2, Suite 315
Merced, CA 95343
United States

Michelangelo Puliga

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies ( email )

Complesso San Micheletto
Lucca, 55100

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