Germany and Austria became the last two EU members to lift labor market restrictions on workers from Eastern Europe on May 1.
On May 1, these last two “old” EU member states removed labor market restrictions keeping out workers from “new” members Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovenia.
While recognizing that Germany's aging workforce could benefit from a few fresh pairs of legs, many politicians and trade unionists on this side of the River Oder are looking eastward with mixed feelings, wondering if the new "open door" policy will fuel economic growth or strain the social system. The move is further charged by the growing debate in Europe over the merits of multiculturalism.
The federal labor agency in Berlin, the BfA, estimates it will seen an influx of up to 140,000 immigrants from within the EU throughout the next year, and then less and less every year after. BfA director Heinrich Alt says they will give a much-needed boost to the economy.