According to CASE Belarus estimates, in 2017 the number of Belarusian labour migrants in the EU was around 100,000 people, not that much for a 9.5 mln country. That figure also covered circular migrants, those who went to the EU for employment and regularly returned to Belarus. By 2020, Belarusians looked much more to the EU than to Russia; number of circular migrants to the EU is up to 70 thousands, says the latest report prepared together with CASE — Center for Social and Economic Research (Poland), Institute for Politics and Society (Czechia), Institute of Economic Research of Slovak Academy of Sciences (Slovakia), Youth Labour Rights (Belarus).
Data for the Poland, Slovakia and Czechia indicate that the number of Belarusian citizens granted various forms of work permits in those countries has been constantly rising, however, it is difficult to accurately assess the number of Belarusian circular migrants in those countries due to difference in migration data collection. Recent population and expert surveys point at higher wages and generally high living standards in receiving countries as the strongest pull factors for Belarusian migrants. Considering the recent stagnation of the Belarusian economy, the gap in GDP per capita between Belarus and these countries has widened. As the gap is forecasted to continue to grow, the permanent and temporary migration of Belarusians in the medium term will likely continue to increase.
The employment of Belarusian circular migrants in the labour markets of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic seems to be complementary to the employment of those countries’ nationals. In Poland, they fill labour supply gaps especially in sectors such as transportation and storage, manufacturing, or construction. The vast majority of circular migrants in the Czech Republic take up low-skilled, often highly physically demanding jobs, including those in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Official Slovak statistics indicate that Belarusians are predominantly employed in certain occupations with high labour shortages such as truck drivers and professionals.
Institutional and legal cooperation between Belarus and Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic in the area of migration is largely non-existent. Belarusian authorities did not elaborate any strategy or any specific legislation regulating circular migration. Poland has some initial clear and lasting advantages over Slovakia and the Czech Republic as a destination for circular migrants from Belarus. The most fundamental is the ease of access to the territory, which is matched by a relatively liberal system of residence and work legalisation. The country also has the highest share of migrants from the post-Soviet area on its labour market, and it has developed a basic set of instruments for attracting and retaining migrant workers from that geographic region.
What could be the policy proposals to tackle common challenges of circular migration from Belarus?
1. The process of issuing visas to Belarusian nationals should be made as simple and as transparent as possible
2. The level of bureaucracy related to migration from Belarus (obtaining work and residence permits) should be lowered for the sake of both migrants and entrepreneurs
3. National migration strategies based on accu- rate projections of the countries’ economic outlooks and realistic assessments of migra- tion flows and demographic developments should be adopted and implemented
4. Specific legislation regulating circular migration which would take into account the inter- ests of the sending and receiving states and of the migrants should be elaborated
Read the full report for more detials (in English, 111 pages). The study is lead by CASE, under financial support of International Visegrad Fund.
Also, within the project we have launched the website www.workineu.by for those seeking the labour opportunities in the V4 countries.