Since the regime changes of 1989 Central Eastern Europe has lost approximately 18 million people to outmigration. This number equals the combined population of Hungary and the Czech Republic, or, in other words, 6 per cent of the region’s collective population. As a result, in 2015 in Poland around 200 schools had to be closed as there were not enough children. The economic and societal consequences of such a large-scale outmigration from Central Europe are experienced on a daily basis.
The UN predicted Bulgaria’s population to shrink by 27 per cent between 2016 and 2050. While some of the population decrease is due to the lack of natural population replacement, low birth rates do not explain the full picture. A large portion of the decrease can only be accounted for by outmigration. Since the regime changes of 1989, one in ten Bulgarians have gone to work abroad, with most of the leavers being young people, below the age of 35. The decline was similarly high in other Central European countries too. Latvia lost a staggering 27 per cent, while Lithuania 22.5 per cent of its population. Since 2007, about 3.5 million people have left Romania. The patterns of outmigration from the rest of the region are similar – young people leave Central European countries in search for better economic opportunities in the West. Their destinations are London, Rome, Berlin, and Paris.
In 2019, 23 per cent of the UK’s EU-born population were from Poland, which means that there are around a million Polish citizens in the UK. The second biggest EU-born ethnic group in the UK were Romanians (500,000 people), while Irish nationals in the UK came only third. ithuanians were the seventh biggest EU ethnic group in the UK (160,000 people), while Bulgarians were the tenth (120,000 people). 42 per cent of Central Europeans moved to the UK to work there. The number of people who immigrated to the UK from the region after Central Europe joined the European Union equalled 3 per cent of the UK’s 2001 working age population.
The outward migration from Central Europe to Western Europe resulted in a serious loss for the region not only because of the loss of population, but also because of brain drain and its economic consequences. 15 per cent of the staff of the British public health service, the NHS, is none-British. The fourth largest none-British ethnic group working for the NHS are the Poles (10,000 people), while Romanians (5,000 people) represent the ninth biggest ethnic group working for NHS. All in all, there are around 80,000 Central Eastern Europeans working in the British healthcare, education and public administration. Since these are highly competitive fields in the UK to work in, Central Europe lost a significant proportion of its highly qualified healthcare professionals who decided to move to the UK due to economic considerations.
Demographically, outmigration for Hungary is not as serious a concern as for neighbouring countries, but in terms of the loss of professionals, it is a serious problem
Hungary has been hit especially badly by outmigration as the proportion of highly skilled workers are the highest among Hungarian migrants. Demographically, outmigration for Hungary is not as serious a concern as for neighbouring countries, but in terms of the loss of professionals, it is a serious problem. It has even led to speculations that the country might be experiencing a decline on international education assessments (such as PISA) due to the outmigration of educated families. Needless to say, if that is true, the country’s competitiveness will face significant challenges in the future as the worse Hungarian children perform in these standardised tests, the worse prospects the country has in the global economy.
The issue of the negative effects of outmigration on the competitiveness of the country leads on to the final point – is it not the case that outward migration from Central Europe hurts all sides? Central European countries are unquestionably hit badly by brain drain, no doubt about that. It has also created negative sentiments in the UK as well – the resentment against migration was one of the major causes of Brexit. Carl Benjamin, the British political commentator and former UKIP member, recently argued that immigration is like a new form of colonialism. The human resources of developing countries are drained, the youth, young professionals who could contribute to the development of their home countries, are tempted to live and work in Western host countries for monetary reward. The exploitation of human resources hurts Central European economies, hence the tern ‘new colonialism’. Outraged by the massive migration and its effects on his country, Carl Benjamin proposed a complete shutdown of immigration to the UK. So, as it seems, extensive mobility within the EU is welcomed by neither the host nor by the source countries. So why stand by open borders?
 Ivan Krastev, ‘The Fear of Shrinking Numbers,’ Journal of Democracy, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2020, p. 68
 Ivan Krastev, ‘The Unraveling of the Post-1989 Order,’ Journal of Democracy, Vol. 27, No. 4, 2016, p. 93
 Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes. ‘Imitation and Its Discontents,’ Journal of Democracy, Vol. 29, No. 3, 2018, pp. 125-126
 Carlos Vargas-Silva and Peter William Walsh, ‘EU Migration to and from the UK,’ Migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk, 2020, https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/resources/briefings/eu-migration-to-and-from-the-uk/#kp4, accessed 5. Feb. 2022.
‘On the Causes of Brexit: How migration from Eastern Europe contributed to the rise of UK Euroscepticism,’ Res.org.uk, 2017, https://www.res.org.uk/resources-page/on-the-causes-of-brexit–how-migration-from-eastern-europe-contributed-to-the-rise-of-uk-euroscepticism.html, accessed 6. Feb. 2022.
 ‘NHS staff from overseas: statistics,’ Commonslibrary.parliament.uk, 2021, https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-7783/, accessed 10. Feb. 2022.
 Alan, Travis, ‘80% of Britain’s 1.4m eastern European residents are in work,’ Theguardian.com, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jul/10/majority-of-britain-eastern-european-residents-are-in-work, accessed 11. Feb. 2022.
 Kovács Tibor, ‘Csökken a magyarok átlagos IQ-ja, és nem az iskolarendszer átalakítása miatt,’ Valaszonline.hu, 2020, https://www.valaszonline.hu/2020/02/24/oktatasi-rendszer-iq-kivandorlas/, accessed 10. Feb. 2022.