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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Romanian Migration: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Well, the argument on this blog is about to start developing as I gather the data together on Romania.

One of the important topics to get to grips with in trying to assess the future path of the Romanian economy is the level of out-migration which has taken place in recent years (in this sense the situation is very similar to the Polish one, with the exception that the Polish situation has had a lot more media coverage.

So to try and get some data to put online I took a look at what Eurostat had. Here is a graph of the information the Romanian statistical authorities have provided to Eurostat.

Nothing out of the normal here you might think. Simply a country with a very low level of migrant flows. The data is for net movement, so there could be larger numbers of people coming and going, but still, the order of magnitude difference cannot be that large, or can it?

Now lets take a look at the data provided by the Spanish national statistics office (the INE) for Romanians resident in Spain over the last few years, and compare this data with the official numbers.

Wow! Well there does seem to be something happening after all. And not all the Romanians who have out-migrated since the end of the 1990s have gone to Spain, although I dare say a fair proportion of them have. The thing is we don't know. What we do know - and we do know since the Romanians in Spain have an interest in registering - whether they are legally working or not, and due to the fact that the Spanish authorities have an interest in maintaining up to date data - is that according to the Spanish Padron Municipal electronic data there were 524,995 Romanaians with active and valid id cards for the Spanish health care system as of 1 Jan 2007. These are not just Romanians who are simply passing through, or just might be around somewhere. The municipal registration which lies behind the data is renewable regularly for those without resident permits, and renewing them is how you get the right to have residence later, so this data is VERY accurate.

But we don't know how many Romanians are currently living and working outside Romania in total (or how many Moldovans are living and working in Romania, which is the other side of the problem) and we don't know because the Romanian national statistics office and the Romanian government don't see the issue as important enough to take the trouble to give this the same sort of priority the Spanish government do, despite the fact that Romania is now a member of the EU, and depsite the fact that it is considered normal that Romanian wages should rise rapidly towards European levels. European levels means European levels in every sense of the word.

But the Romanian authorities will regret this failing. They will regret it since, as the analysis on this blog will attempt to demonstrate, in the coming economic crisis in Romania, the outflow of people, and the reverse inflow of money in the form of remittances, and the subsequent distortions in the kinds of economic activity which are undertaken will, unfortunately, turn out to be very important.

So, please, will any one out there with any reasonably accurate data to offer on this situation please get in touch.

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